On Making Sentences Do Something

From The New Yorker:

When you map a book out in your head, you don’t build it with sentences,
since you can’t fit that many sentences in your head at once. You build
it with images or scenes. Or you lay out the structure, or you outline
the plot. I do some combination of all these things. In any case, the
very day I sent my publisher the final changes to my memoir, I started
writing what would become my first published novel. By then, the book
already existed in some inchoate form in my head, and my job was to get
it onto the page. There wasn’t the same kind of moral imperative that
comes with nonfiction: I’d made everything up, so I didn’t owe it to
anyone other than myself to render it truthfully, and I made changes to
the initial conception whenever they seemed justified, many of them
quite substantial. But I had finally learned the lesson, and it applied
to my fiction as well as my nonfiction: Whenever my sentences had a
function outside themselves — whether that function was connecting up
other sentences, honoring the truth of a loved one’s life, or setting
down an imagined world already existent in my head — they could in time
be made to work. Whenever my sentences were built to be beautiful yet
self-sufficient objects of attention, they collapsed.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *