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Flaubert, Sand, Balzac… The writing methods of the great French authors


How to give birth to a masterpiece of literature? Our illustrious writers have all submitted to the exercise of writing, each in their own way.

All their life, they blackened the blank pages which later gave rise to the proofs of the most precious writings of our literary heritage.

Behind the erasures and bits of sentences left behind by our great authors lie long days of work carried out in order to achieve the sublime.

To discover

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Sitting behind a desk, standing leaning on the chest of drawers, or lying in bed, as Marcel Proust proceeded, each writer sets the conditions for the writing process.

But the approach is not limited to a work environment.

From documentation to correction, how did men of letters proceed to give birth to the masterpieces of French literature?

Here is the advice they could have given you.

1. Document as much as Zola

No matter the ugly, the sordid, any self-respecting naturalist must paint humanity as it is.

For this, before starting any writing activity, Zola embarks on a work of documentation and field investigation.

The most important, he made it from 1881 for

Au Bonheur des Dames


Plans of department stores, interviews, notes… He leaves nothing to chance and notes the specificities linked to the language of those he questions.

Also, he uses "joke" instead of




instead of


, or even


rather than

"glass of wine"


2. Follow a strict routine, like Balzac

The Human Comedy

was not written in a day.

As we learn in

Balzac, his working method

(1879) by Champfleury, the author's watch is precious to him.

And this, because he is compelled to write very precisely 15 hours a day.

Usually, his day starts at midnight.

After a quick snack, the latter works until 7 am.

An hour of rest or walk follows, before returning to the office from 8 am to 4 pm.

From then on, the literary genius grants himself the right to eat, very often in the company of friends.

But the meal cannot last more than two hours because it is already bedtime.

A life of

“pen and ink galley slave”

, he liked to say.

But there is no result without work… or coffee.

Legend has it that the writer drank almost fifty cups a day.

Read alsoBalzac, Hugo, Pennac… Their advice for being good fathers

3. “Yelping” like Flaubert

“The style, which is something that I take to heart, agitates my nerves horribly, I annoy myself, I gnaw at myself.

There are days when I am sick of it”

, said Flaubert.

Going so far as to

"inflame his lungs"

, the author of

Madame Bovary

(1857) regularly interrupts himself to shout his texts into his "mouthpiece", in order to check their clarity and consistency.

“Poorly written sentences do not stand this test;

they oppress the chest, hinder the beating of the heart and are thus outside the conditions of life”

, he wrote in the preface to the

Last Songs

of Louis Bouilhet (1872).

According to the versions given by the Goncourt and Maupassant brothers, the


de Flaubert was sometimes in the study of his house in Croisset, sometimes in the back of his garden.

4. Solicit peers, like Sand

In her

Essay on the Fantastic Drama

(1839), George Sand challenges the myth of artistic originality promoted by the 19th century.

It supports the existence of an intertextual influence, that is to say the linking of different texts within the same writing.

Sand notably uses the metaphor of the

"master's garment"

, donned by new writers, as a symbol of literary heritage.

A thesis which for her results in the request for proofreading to her peers.

Also, two years before the publication of the


, for which she took on the role of critic, George Sand sent her first draft to Gustave Planche and asked him to kindly comment on her manuscript.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-02-07

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