On Becoming a Novelist

On Becoming a Novelist

John Gardner

Language: English

Pages: 172

ISBN: 0393320030

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"One of the greatest creative writing teachers we've ever had." ―Frederick Busch

On Becoming a Novelist contains the wisdom accumulated during John Gardner's distinguished twenty-year career as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher. With elegance, humor, and sophistication, Gardner describes the life of a working novelist; warns what needs to be guarded against, both from within the writer and from without; and predicts what the writer can reasonably expect and what, in general, he or she cannot. "For a certain kind of person," Gardner writes, "nothing is more joyful or satisfying than the life of a novelist." But no other vocation, he is quick to add, is so fraught with professional and spiritual difficulties. Whether discussing the supposed value of writer's workshops, explaining the role of the novelist's agent and editor, or railing against the seductive fruits of literary elitism, On Becoming a Novelist is an indispensable, life-affirming handbook for anyone authentically called to the profession. "A miraculously detailed account of the creative process."―Anne Tyler, Baltimore Sun



















children, the writer cannot pay as much attention to them as his neighbors do to theirs, and if the writer is worthy of his profession, he feels some guilt over this. Because his art is such a difficult one, the writer is not likely to advance in the world as visibly as do his neighbors: while his best friends from high school or college are becoming junior partners in prestigious law firms, or opening their own mortuaries, the writer may be still sweating out his first novel. Even if he has

but I'm assuming, as the primary reader of this book, an intensely serious beginning novelist who wants the strict truth (as I perceive it) for his life's sake, so that he can plan his days and years in ways beneficial to his art; avoid false paths of technique, theory, and attitude; and become as quickly and efficiently as possible a master of his craft. This book is elitist, in a sense. I do not mean that I write mainly for that very special novelist who desires only a small coterie of

single question most often asked during question-and-answer periods in university auditoriums and classrooms is: "Do you write with a pen, a typewriter, or what?" I suspect the question is more important than it seems on the surface. It brings up magical considerations—the kinds of things compulsive gamblers are said to worry about: When one plays roulette, should one wear a hat or not, and if one should, should one cock it to the left or to the right? What color hat is luckiest? The question

justified) that although you will not move a muscle, your hand and forearm are going to rise. Concentrate on not moving the arm, but without resisting whatever may begin to happen to the arm, and concentrate, too, on the belief that the arm will rise. You will soon begin to feel an odd lightness in the hand, and eventually, independent of conscious volition, the arm will lift. Magic. (A hypnotically raised arm can hang suspended in air for hours without discomfort. A hand raised by conscious will

unpleasant engineering student insists on enrolling in Mickelsson's own course, tips the scales of Mickelsson's increasing inclination to move as far as he can from the university without giving up his job completely. And within these sprawling scenes it is possible to place directly before the reader, in dialogue and action (sometimes in momentary flashback), the main forces that have brought Mickelsson to this moment. As I've said, I didn't work all this out intellectually. I worked out a plan,

Download sample