A Novel in a Single Breath
Question: How often do you rewrite your books?
John Irving: Well, in the case of a book that was in the back of my mind for as long as this one, twenty years, and yet I didn't write that last sentence until January, 2005, from the moment I got that last sentence and I began that road map we've talked about, and from the moment I started writing the actual novel, August of that same year, 2005, the writing of the first draft was rather quickly forthcoming. For me, very quickly, unusually quickly. But certainly more of my years as a writer are always spent rewriting than they are writing first drafts. Because I never begin a first draft until there is a plot, until I do know what happens to all of the characters, you might understand why those first drafts are pretty quickly forthcoming, but the rewriting process slows me down and I like everything about the writing process that compels me to slow down, to keep it slow. I write all my first drafts in long hand because you can only write so fast in longhand. And on a keyboard, you can cover too much ground in too fast a time, right? And I like to keep it slow, especially in that first draft stage.
And the longer the book you write, the more times you must pass through it because writer's voices change within a four, five year period of time, you're actually liking a different kind of sentence five years down the road, than you were four years ago. And one of the tasks of revising a novel of any length is to go back and make the whole thing sound as if it were spoken in one breath, as if your sentence style, your preference for the semicolon or the parentheses or the dash, just was constant, and you got to make it look that way, even though it wasn't spoken in one breath, it was spoken in very halting little bits, it's supposed to sound like it's coming right off the top of your head.
Recorded on: October 30, 2009
For John Irving, whose sprawling novels can take years to complete, one of the most significant challenges of writing is creating the sense that the words on the page are fresh from his mind.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.
- It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
- Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.