Monday, April 2, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Thanks to Paula, who passed along this great quotation about the novel-writing process:

from David Lodge, "The Novel as Communication," in D. H. Mellor, ed., Ways of Communicating (Cambridge, 1990)

"Until the writer has completed it he doesn’t know what it is that he is communicating, and perhaps doesn’t know even then. You discover what you have to say in the process of saying it….You cannot possibly hold the whole complex totality of a novel in your head in all its detail at any one moment. You work your way through it word by word, sentence by sentence… The future of a novel in the process of composition is always vague, provisional, unpredictable - if it were not so, the labour of writing it would too tedious to bear. When you have finished the novel it is not that you have really finished it, but that you have decided to do no more work on it….And when the novel is published and goes out of your control to modify it, it also goes out of your control to intend the meaning of it. It is read by different readers in a bewildering variety of ways, as reviewers and readers’ letters attest."

Personally, I'm relieved to learn that I'm not the only one unable to hold the totality of my novel in my head. Every few months or so I read over the whole thing, just to remind myself what happened way back on page 15. And I'm a big believer in learning the story as you go. In fact, I say, "Ditto," to the whole darn quote!

Feel free to share your favorite writing quotations: Lpietr AT aol DOT com.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.