Nabokov Template?

The above got me thinking about a possible Nabokov-method template for Scrivener:

What if, when you hit command-N, instead of an infinite piece of white paper, you got a simple notecard: Two 4 x 6 rectangles placed one over the other, the top with lines, the bottom blank, representing the front and back of the card. The card is limited, which is to say, it doesn’t expand as you write. When you reach the end of the card (as determined by word count, or by space), you have to make a new one.

The idea is to emulate both the elegance and the inherent constraints of Nabokov’s famous writing method, without losing any of Scrivener’s underlying power. Everything else in Scriv works the same – I’m suggesting merely a wicked-simple front end template.

When you think about it, Nabokov’s approach was nothing more than an analog version of Scrivener on a laptop: portable, flexible, segmented, concerned with writing over formatting. This is just the 2009 iteration of that approach.

I realize one could do this in Scrivener right now by simply having the discipline to limit each new text to, say, 200 words. One could also do this by buying a pack of notecards and finding a pencil. But enforcing space limitations in the app allows us to bore down into very small chunks of our work, making us consider the value of each word – just like VN’s notecards did for him. And, I’ll admit it: the notecards would look really cool.

To be clear: I am not suggesting this as a replacement for or enhancement to corkboard. I’m saying that this is just another template that might appeal to some writers. Certainly might give you another marketing angle, as well.

Just a thought.


Seconded. It would be a really nice option to have.

Pardon me - what is the Nabokov method? :open_mouth:

I think its girls on top :confused: Isnt it?

Less a “method” and more of a habit. He wrote entire novels one index card at a time, usually in pencil, often copying out the day’s work on fresh cards at night. The New York Public Library ran en exhibit in 1999 called Nabokov Under Glass, that included the original index cards that comprised his last four novels in their entirety. The picture at the top of the thread is from that collection.

You can do approximately the same thing now. Open a project with, say, half a dozen documents in the Binder; number them 1 to 6. Click on all in the Binder, opening them in the corkboard, set cards to two across, and close the Inspector. (These are settings which work for me; you may have to juggle, according to screen size, font, etc.) Generate a stack of cards, each of which will hold about 200 (or whatever) words, and work on each one separately. Then change the setting to 5 or 6 across and re-arrange them. You don’t wind up with a document, exactly, but you do have a stack of file cards with chunks of data on each.


Thanks for the advice, but that’s not really it. I was looking for something more direct… just a notecard text document interface. Just the ability to replace the “piece of paper” with the front and back of a card.

I don’t think something like this makes much sense, as it’s sort of a double-metaphor, in that this is sort of already Scrivener’s purpose - writing in small chunks. (It does give me an idea for a standalone app, however…)

Mind you, in Scrivener 1.5, which has a page view that can be set up to have arbitrary dimensions, you could set it up much like you wish:

All the best,

Which gives me the idea that I may be shelling out more $ to L&L in the future if it’s anywhere near as good as Scrivener.

Which would be fine since, though Nabokov used notecards for snippets, notes, and even full scenes, he did on occasion run a scene beyond the front and back of a single card.

Maybe Nabokov would have been better off using a notebook? :slight_smile:

The Nabookov™?

Theres more jokers in this thread than SNL. I dont see why people can`t take things seriously.tch! tch! :open_mouth:

If it is true what Nabokov said about his working method the cards were just a working habit and not for moving around chunks of text. According to his words in structure and the order of scenes the novels and stories were (almost) completed in his head and at a certain point he just had to write them down.

It is a little difficult to verify if it was like that or if he just wanted us to believe it as he did not leave many versions of texts and the people close to him didn’t give anything away.

But thanks to Dmitri, his son, The Original of Laura is coming soon …

And about programming a digital notecard-only writing program: No offence, but if someone thinks by mimicking one of the great writer’s working method at least a splinter of his genius would fall on him I strongly suggest a change of profession (or hobby).

I have to strongly disagree on this. I don’t think anyone here said that by mimicking Nabokov’s method they would gain a splinter of his genius. I don’t see anything wrong with trying out different writing methods to see what works for you, and this is an interesting approach.

Anyway, I did read on a Nabokov site that he did occasionally shuffle his cards to find a different order. I find that hard to believe, so I don’t know how true it is. I also read somewhere a long time ago - though I cannot remember where and cannot find any reference to this anywhere else - that he often got his wife to put the cards into order and type them up.

All the best,


Funny, every time I want to see something in Scrivener, I discover that 1.5 will either do it or come awfully close. That’s going to be a hell of an update. As for the standalone app idea, I love it, and I’d pay for it!

Thanks for your response.


I don’t know anything about Nabokov’s methods, but it just seems to me that Sean’s idea would be a perfect fit with the other thread about Scrivener and iPhone … :confused:


I read somewhere, maybe in “Speak Memory”, that Nabokov liked to write in the bath tub.


don’t know if this can help, but there’s already something like the “Nabokov-writing-method” software (and I remember they referred to Nabokov’s cards in the Home of their internet site, now the reference is gone…), it’s called “SuperNotecard”. It’s available for novelists and there’s a version for scriptwriting; they offer a free trial, just with a limit in the card number per project… (and it’s less expensive than OmniOutlinerPro…)

Maybe someone on this forum has already tried it?

All the best

What does anyone think about how Nabokov would write today?
Assuming that you could take his historical context out of the equation, can you imagine Nabokov using a macbook in the tub? Dangerous? Would he practice “Safe Scrivening?”

I’m being silly, but it’s -30 C outside and I have to be silly.

Entire sagas written on hundreds of small pieces of paper? Sounds like a Twitter writer.