The Beat writer Jack Kerouac is noted for his "stream of consciousness" writing style exemplified in his 1957 novel, On the Road, but there seems to be conflicting evidence on how "stream of consciousness" this book was.

He famously wrote the book on a modified typewriter with a scroll of paper attached to it so that he could write continuously. But how much editing was involved in this "stream of consciousness" novel, and how much planning was involved in the "true" story the novel is based on?

  • 1
    The scroll is real, and I have seen it. Very impressive to behold, actually. Feb 6, 2017 at 23:00
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks for the tags. I don't yet have the rep to create them... I was also thinking a "the-beats" tag might be appropriate since they are a literary movement among themselves.
    – user403
    Feb 6, 2017 at 23:13
  • The Scroll, unrolled.
    – Valorum
    Mar 1, 2017 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


I'll sum it up like this: He planned it on notebooks when travelling, and spent 7 years revising and editing it. The original however was very 'stream of consciousness' - it was written in continuous form in just 3 weeks.

Obviously when you are trying to publish a 120 foot long scroll, some editing is needed. As for the planning, there didn't seem to be much.

During 1947 and 1950, Kerouac went on his travels that the book tells us about. He wrote about the trips in small notebooks in which a lot of the text was written.

He first started writing the novel in 1948 beaded in his 1947 travels. However he wasn't satisfied.

He was inspired to write the long script when he received a 1000 word letter that rambles on from Neal Cassady, a great friend, he decided to write the novel as if it was a letter.

The first draft was written in three weeks in 1951. It was the continuous 120 foot scroll that has become so famous.

After this Kerouac continued to edit and delete sections of the manuscript to replace them with shorter passages, so there was some editing. He rewrote many parts and there was an unfortunate incident where a dog mistook part of the scroll for homework.

There was an estimated 6 drafts between 1951 and 1957, as his work was constantly rejected by his publishers.

There were several inserts that weren't included in On the Road, and were put in another novel Visions of Cody

On the Road was finally published in 1957, based on revisions of the 1951 scroll.

The major edits were the fact that it was shorter and the main characters had pseudonyms.

Sources: NPR and Wikipedia

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    This is definitely an informative and interesting answer, but my only hesitation is with the format. I wonder if you could include specific quotes from your sources as evidence to support your individual claims?
    – user403
    Feb 9, 2017 at 20:48
  • @Irregardless er ok, I'll work on that a bit later when I have time Feb 9, 2017 at 20:49

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