Where to begin Writing a BookSo where do you start writing a book?
Review - John Irving, The Art of Fiction No. 93
Included among the many titles on the high shelves are international versions of his works in fifteen different nationalities. You are forty-four and have already written six great and important fiction and many unread articles, narratives and critiques. I' m obsessive in my typing, I have to do it the way I need sleeping and exercising and eating and having it. I can do without it for a while, but then I need it.
Such a novel is such a long occupation; when I start a novel, I can't work more than two or three lessons a workday. And then there is the centre of a work. It is a deluxe thing to earn enough to feed myself as a novelist to have these 8-, 9- and 12-hour workdays.
After all, I didn't like having to give lessons and train, not because I refused to give lessons or train or fight, but because I didn't have it. When then the case liquid body substance to end the product, it is position to these two- and three-hour era. I' m writing very fast, I' m writing very slow. It' taking me almost as long to reschedule a textbook as I did for the first one.
I' m faster at reading than reading. So how do you start a work? My deceased E.P. Dutton writer Henry Robbins described this as my uterus theory: "Stay away from reading the script for as long as you can, don't start it, save it. That' an asset in historic fiction.
There was so much I had to teach before I could begin with these volumes; I had to collect so much information, take so many notations, see, testify, watch, read - whatever, when I could start to write, I knew everything that would be. I' d like to know what a novel will feel like after the most important things have happened.
Anyway, the narrator's voices come from the fact that he knows how it all comes out before you start. Did one of your books change dramatically when you wrote it? So the more you know about a textbook, the more freely you can move. Do you need a working name before starting a work?
I' m usually starting with ends, with a feeling of aftereffects, dusty deposits, epilogs. At the end of a notebook, all the important findings are the things I need to know before I know where to start. Shouldn't authors know at least as much about their personalities as comedians do?
I' m just writing cheap critiques. An author whose own narrative is at the forefront is too biased a readership to have ascribed to him. When I get a feedback and I don't like it, I give it back; I only revise the text if I do.
That' s why I wrote very few critiques, and these are actually only hymns of compliments or rather long, hindsight critiques of all works of the author: by John Cheever, Kurt Vonnegut and Günter Grass for example. Then there is the occasionally "younger" author, whom I present to my readership like Jayne Anne Phillips and Craig Nova.
One other thing, if you don't post bad press: adults shouldn't complete a book they don't like. What about the fictional? I' ve never been able to keep a journal, a notebook. I tried; I start by speaking the truths by recalling true human beings, relations and mates. It' s a fairly good detail of the scenery, but folks aren't interesting enough - they don't have enough to do with each other; what naturally worries and bore me is the lack of action.
There is no history in my whole existence! I' m much more interested in the part of the history that I invent, the "relative" that I never had. Then I start thinking about a novel; that's the end of the journal. Particularly in your younger work, but already now one has the feeling that an adult is involved, a very spontaneous comedian.
Do you have as much pleasure now as when you started storytelling in Exeter? Can' say I enjoy my work. Actually, the idea of a novel is to find a victim. While I' m typing, I' m always looking for losses. You know, some folks say you wrote catastrophe novels. I' m not drawn to writer in terms of stile.
You are a very emotionally charged author. What contribution did your time in Vienna make to your career as a author? They say Carl Jung is better, but Jung can't read! He was a great author! Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't match at all, but when folks say Freud is "wrong," I have to smile.
But, as a novelist, I am not so much interested in taking on a politics side as in uncovering an act of bribery or misuse (usually by a person or group, but also by a statute or by a general indifference). Reading a reviewer of my work who found it ridiculous that I still write about "good" and "bad" men.
I don't mean what kind of books he's been reading. There' re evil men in the whole wide earth; and good men too. President Reagan wants the US to believe that the Liberals in that state and the Communists outside that state have made the whole wide open as it is.
Are you of the opinion that policy reflections should be more important for US authors? He said he wanted to keep his diction clean, that is, free of policy; but when he didn't write a diction, he wanted to be as proactive in policy. It' a good way to life, but perhaps it is more effective for a writer from western Germany than for an US writer.
Willy Brandt had the knowledge to have Grass writing for him. Who would dare to have an US writer type for him - true detail, true argument, true right and injustice? What would be the consequences if Philip Roth voluntarily wrote election campaigns orations for a president candidates?
My doubts are that the pledge that the words would be more specific and educated and wiser and more humanitarian would strongly affect the individuals who make the self-removing policy "statements" that are now considered to be the sermons. It is doubtful whether any of the politicians would employ Philip Roth or William Styron or Arthur Miller or a good author that you could name.
What is your explanation for the comparatively indifferent attitude of US authors towards domestic policy? As I said to Grass, there is no way for US authors to be involved in political life in this state. We' re complacent:'Well, I'm not part of it'; or'As I said in the nation'; or'As I said to the Stanford students'; or'When I was on the Today Show' (for two minutes) - and so on and so forth.
If we want to be political, I think it has to creep into our fiction. That' s why I'm looking for books that make us more and more unpleasant, which is a matter of course in our world. Authors must describe the horrible. And, of course, one way to describe the horrible is to describe it in a funny way.
It was more my concern whether her own culture would continue to experience another Vietnam in Central America - although, as I said to them, I would not be one of the Americans sent there to dying, these Americans would come from their age. Many well-nourished, well clad, career-oriented youngsters smiles at me with a kind of "what-is-he-worried-about?
It was about migratory labourers and the time in the 1950' s, when I worked in the fruit gardens with southern African fruit growers, and I said that not much had happened to the immigrants since then and that as a child I felt great affection for and always wanted to be as honest as possible with them.
"Are the immigrants going to do it? I' m not sure what they're getting at, but they seemed to think they'd made one, the immigrants wouldn't even be reading it, so what the hell? Obviously, if you know the script, you know that's one of my points about migrants: You can' t do that!
They are furious - and the last few who think they are in a state of politics or simply a state of society are the artist, the writer and the intellectual. Any government thinks we are stupid not to count, and in the public press the intellectual and artist are always portrayed as completely untrustworthy and egotistical individuals, as flocks and forgeries and weaklings who lose contact with ordinary sin.
Is it that they like to see themselves as a victim, or do they listen to it? It is unlikely that any man author has paid so much heed to the subjects of fornication, sexually assaulted men and now, with the Cider House Rules, the issue of prostitution. I have been working for years on one or the other type of violent behaviour against mothers.
A few conventional complacent individuals, who close their noses, say that all this abuse against girls in my book - as if it had only been there! Others who think that gender abuse is fine think that I am just a man with curious worries, or a man who writes female tract. You' ve worked on a script by Settings Free the Bears and on the thanks page of The Water-Method Man you expressed your thanks to the author of the story, Irvin Kershner, "for a precious and thrilling movie experience"; and yet since then you've refused any chance to participate in the filming of your stories.
Films are the novel's enemies because they replace fiction. Authors of fiction should not compose for the film unless they find that they are not good at it. I' ve learnt a great deal from Kershner, who is still a dear colleague of mine, but I used to hate it.
and I' m happy that some of them, who are awfully clever, don't write fiction. There' re plenty of folks who write fiction, God knows. However, the most important thing I learnt by scriptwriting a script for Settings Free the Bears for Kershner was that scriptwriting isn't really scriptwriting; it's dojoining.
There is no such thing as speech, and the author has no command over the tempo of the narrative or the sound of the narrative, and what else is there to do? T on Richardson tells me that there are no scriptwriters, so there's at least one moviemaker in agreement with me.
Might be the most precious thing I ever did - my chance to write a film when I was so young, right after my first novel was released - because I was never tried to do it again. Doing a good work with The World According to to Garp, he brought it to the outskirts and gave all of the character a haircut and made them much more beautiful when they were in the script, but he was faithful to the local line, the straightforward story-tell.
What is lacking in this picture, of course, are nine tenth of the script, but George was true to what he could do. That is another good thing why I am not interested in making films: the primary task of making a novel of mine into a picture is to discard nine tenth of the novel.
It was not as verbatim as George, and story telling is more nervous, but he tried to make it into a real fairytale what it is - Europe seemed to better comprehend it than they could comprehend it here (both in the script and in the film). Initially it was supposed to be in two parts, but Tony couldn't resolve the two-part script - isn't it rather shy how film makers speak about "solving" screenplays?
He then cut what he had into a movie, and that hurts; this kind of cartoon made it too fast, at least for those who didn't know the work. Would you like to work with feature films again? No, I can't. I can't make a good tale. What was nearest to a good tale was "The Pension Grillparzer", and the why I worked so much on that tale was that I penned it for T. S. Garp - I had to realize that my personality was the right thing for him to really do.
I' d never have worked so harder on a history of my own. Only I don't like the way the stories are written. I' m never going to make a history again, except maybe a history that is only intended to be told or sung. As soon as I release something, I usually don't like to reread it out loud, but I am going to play "The Pension Grillparzer" in front of the audience, seventy-three different occasions.
"I' ve seen you talk a hundred times," she said. "She said grumpily, "I still think you'll do something else. I' ve never reread the whole thing again. Now I want to try again; the whole thing is just a length that is perfectly intact. Nowadays I like open lectures, but the sections of all my books, lately, are one and a half or two hour of literary work; and shortening them does not make them better; and all the necessary things to say to insert sections or parts of sections, of a novel-in-progress.... it's a frustration.
They were my peers; of course I have. I' ll start it. Of course, Kurt Vonnegut is the most inventive US author since Mark Twain and the most humanitary English author since Charles Dickens. and I liked his taste for nonsense and playing fairly - always at battles.
I appreciate my friendship with many of my admiring writers: In general I like other authors; I try to see every author I can - and try to see every one. What do you think of this time in the US compared to before? Like so many contemporary authors who only write for and with each other, do we not become understandable to anyone who is not another one?
Nevertheless, I can still do Milton; I really do get him. However, if I am reading the verses of someone my own old and can't comprehend anything, is this to be a malfunction of my training or my lyric? Afterwards, her books were less interested in narrative experimentation than in history itself.
No, I don't like a novel that is a dull exercise in typing without narration, no character, no information novel that is just an intellectual discourse with a lot of stilte. They' re not fiction. They are the works of those who want to call themselves authors, but have no discernible way of working.
When he wanted to, he could spell beautifully, but he never had so little to say that he thought the subject of the letter was a beautiful one. Their obsession with the stories, the character, the laughter as well as the teardrops will last longer the bigger and simpler the things they are occupied with. What was your years at the Iowa Writers' Workshop like?
When I was there as a college undergraduate, I was not necessarily "taught", although I was certainly supported and supported - and the counsel of Vance Bourjaily, Kurt Vonnegut and José Donoso clearly did save me a lot of useful work. That is, they were telling me things about my work and about my work in general that I would probably have found out for myself, but for a young author speaking English, however, speaking of the language, I think it would be invaluable.
I' m always saying this is what I can'teach' a young writer: something he will know for himself a little longer; but why waiting to know these things? So many positions, so many attitudes that can be adopted when narrating a tale; they can be much more conscious, much more in the writers hands than an layman knows.
Particularly Gail Godwin, Stanley Elkin and John Cheever. Iowa, you saw J.P. Donleavy. and Iowa City is a good place to see them, but I didn't like Donleavy. Cheever and I, who were in a particularly ritualised custom of seeing Monday night football together as we ate home-made pastas, were lucky to learn that Donleavy was going to come.
Donleavy hadn't expected to see anything of mine, but I was amazed when he said he didn't see anyone alive; then he asked if we were in Kansas. But he was one of those authors who had no idea about program development and had many preconceptions about it: being a writer's apprentice was a wasted moment; better to go out and feel pain.
When he met workshop pupils, he said that any author who lowered himself by giving lessons in lettertelling was unable to teach them anything. So I said we would take Mr. Cheever to the lecture and that both Mr. Cheever and I were great fans, and that although I knew that Mr. Donleavy didn't see anyone alive, he should know that Mr. Cheever was a great author.
Donleavy didn't even look at him when I presented Cheever Donleavy; he continued to talk to his woman about Bitirin as if Cheever wasn't there. Attempting to say a few things about why so many US authors turned to doctrine - as a way to support themselves without putting the weight of making a living on their writings; and as a way to give themselves enough free rein to practise their work.
Donleavy wasn't interested, and he said it. All the journey he took was tiring; the crowd he encountered, the crowd everywhere was tiring too. So Cheever and I were sitting in the front of the van, out of the discussion about the evil of Bitirin, and drove the Donleavys around as if they were miserable kings in a provincial city.
I' ll say that Mrs. Donleavy seemed to have suffered her husband's apathy. Or maybe she just had a throat ache. At Cheever tried to involve Donleavy in a few conversations, and since Cheever was as talented in conversations as any other man I've ever known, I became more and more angry at Donleavy's cold and insensitivity and complete disrespect.
To be frank, I thought if there was one, I should put it in a pool when Cheever took the floor. "You know, Mr. Donleavy," Cheever said, "that no great novelist of fantasy was ever bullshit for another novelist of fantasy except Hemingway - and he was mad? The Donleavy had no response.
Maybe he thought Hemingway was still a lived author, so he didn't even see him. Me and Cheever left the Donleavys at the lecture, which we skipped over. Many years later I got to know George Roy Hill, who said that he was a flatmate of "Mike" Donleavy at Trinity College, Dublin, and that "Mike" was just a little bit excentric and certainly not a lousy kind.
However, I recalled my night with Cheever and recounted to George that in my view Donleavy was a little novelist, a shithead or a lunatic - or all three. Cheever didn't drink; Donleavy wasn't intoxicated - he was just honest and played the firstborn.
It felt a little like slandering a classmate to tell that tale, but I felt so terrible - not for myself, but for Cheever. Such a scandal that Donleavy - that big, stupid man with his cane - snubbed John Cheever. I would say if the tale were to embarrass him or make him mad, we're even; the night has made Cheever and me disembarrassed and made us mad, too.
Cheever's notion was often marked by the sensitivity of Christians. I' m currently working on a script. By this I mean that I am composing a novel that asks the readers to believe in a wonder. With this in mind, perhaps it is always a matter of religion to write a novel, because we have to believe that our personalities are nominated - even if only by us - and that their actions are not coincidences, their reactions are not coincidental.
Will this affect your aims as a novelist? So many authors overdrink. I hear you put the guilt on what's not right about this or that alcohol issue reading the text. Obviously, some authors who start their best work early just loose interest in reading; or they loose their focus - probably because they want to do other things.
and Fitzgerald really did live to be a writer; their body and brain gave them away. However, just think of what authors of novels do: literature needs a kind of remembering, a powerful, invention. I am not morally so keen on drink for authors; but alcohol is clearly not good for reading or carving.
" Unforgettable "; "connections" are what make the novel work - without them you have no dynamic narratives; you have unconnected migrations. And, in my view, typing is the opposite of egos. Trust as a novelist should not be mistaken for selfish trust. An author is a car. Sense that the tale I am creating exists before I did; I am only the one who finds it and rather clumsy trying to do it, and the people, the righteous.
I' m thinking of creating destiny to do credit to the history of mankind and to live up to its history - that's not my history. I listen more as a novelist than I talk. W. H. Auden referred to the first act of the letter as "remarkable". Oh, sure, authors "invent" the speech, the voices, the transitions, all the jingling jumpers that spann the parts of the narrative - that's it.
Did Faulkner not say something like "the mankind' s own hearts in contradiction with themselves" in order to do well? This is the part of the atmospheric in fiction: it delivers detail that feels as good or as frightening as memory. It' a very important ploy for a novelist.
I was about to start working on it, I was already a readership. And I wanted more free space to study more and more fiction and practise my own work. That' s all I wanted to do, and it really helped me: to study my own work. You can of course browse some fiction in school, but you also have to spend all this talk and talk about it if you could browse more of it.
What about a little school? I was given a little bit of free writein' and they gave me a small crowd. I' m speaking of three other authors who knocked me on my face and gave a crayon over my phrases - I didn't need the schooling part. So I guess I needed those stupid diplomas because I wouldn't have gotten an apprenticeship without them, and the lessons were an honourable and not too time-consuming way to help myself (which I had to do) in those years when I wrote the first four volumes.
However, if I was a good instructor - and I was - it was because I had been reading and writing and writing and writing many of my books; that gave me the essence, what I actually was teaching. It didn't take me a school to become a novelist; I needed what many folks need from the so-called higher education: the certificates!
The Dutton guys did their best - a very young journalist called Jane Rosenman did a good work with me and the Hotel New Hampshire. But then I ran into Harvey Ginsberg, who was actually an old schoolmate of Henry's - a schoolmate in Harvard and just as I was typing The Cider House Rules, where did Harvey come from?
Do you know who's gonna say that? There is so much resentment between authors and their editors and agents, but I have been saved from it, and that means that I can think about my letter instead of thinking about how I will be released - which offers an absolute paralyzing diversion to many authors I know.