How Anne Tyler writes

Anne Tyler: “For 20 years sometimes I’ll pass a card and it does nothing for me. But the 21st year I’ll pick it out of the box and it will feel like something is flowering in my mind.”
[talking to ‘The Bookseller’ magazine]

Anne Tyler


Keeping track of ideas is something that every novelist does, in their own way. Pulitzer-winning novelist Anne Tyler [she won in 1989 for Breathing Lessons] uses a box of index cards. She writes one note per card, sometimes a possible character’s name, other cards may be more detailed. After she uses the card, she throws it away.

I like this idea. At the moment I store all ideas, fragments, no matter how small. But they are in different places and it can be frustrating tracking them down and matching them together. Keeping them in an index box means they are in one place. Somehow it is more tactile to write it on a card rather than type a note in a Word document: the difference perhaps between free writing in a notebook, and free writing on a keyboard.

Read my reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.

Anne Tyler


See how these other novelists write:-
Tracy Chevalier
Bill Clegg
Kate Atkinson

‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Tyler [UK: Chatto]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How #author Anne Tyler uses index cards via @SandraDanby #amwriting


  1. Tescos currently do a nice line in multicoloured index cards…and Sainsburys have some slightly larger and sturdier cards…not that I’m a compulsive stationery shopper or anything… ;o)