No longer all at sea.

Book Club on BBC Radio 4, presented by James Naughtie, is a once a month programme that I like to listen to, when at home.

On Sunday 06 April 2014, Irish writer John Banville discussed his novel The Sea which won the Man Booker prize in 2005.

In this episode which will be repeated on Thursday at 15.30, I was more taken by the way the author spoke about his process of writing, than about the book itself.

John Banville explained how he painstakingly writes his novels over many years, creating sentence after sentence. He trusts the sentence. He writes by the sentence. He does not write by the paragraph or the chapter. If he gets one sentence right it will lead on to the next one.

He said “The sentence is the greatest invention of humankind. The sentence is what makes us human, it is what we think with, what we devise with, what we declare love with, what we declare war with, it is the essence of us”.

He is pleased with the way he handles time, He does it without trying, it happens and it works, he trusts his instincts.

Those two points struck a chord with me.

Everything I have read up until now, about writing, spoke of structures, outlines, beginnings, middles and ends. Never before had I come across a mention of working sentence by sentence.

It is the way I have always worked, be it a letter, an email, a blog post or a story.

I wanted to re-listen to the programme to make sure I had heard correctly on Sunday. Tonight was the first opportunity I had to do so, and it was as if someone had given me the winning lottery numbers…..

Thank you John Banville for the boost in confidence to keep plugging on.

10 thoughts on “No longer all at sea.

  1. wisewebwoman

    As one who writes in swathes of words I appreciated reading this. I thought of your beautiful handwork and how you create stitch by stitch also. I do enormous afghans therefore I write in great gobs of words. More to think about there, eh? 😀

    1. Grannymar Post author

      For me, each achievement begins with the first stitch/word. Without the ‘first’ I have only a blank canvas/page.

  2. Cathyathy

    Its great when your thoughts and ideas are reinforced by someone else. Love WWW comparison of yours and her ‘work – fancy or fiction.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Cathy, WWW is a very talented lady, who I had the pleasure of meeting in real life a few years ago. Kindred spirits, we both enjoy sewing, knitting, cooking and I am beginning to discover the ‘fun’ of writing.

  3. SchmidleysScribbling

    As I was reading your piece, I thought about how posts and letters are written one sentence at a time. Writing comments on my iPad it’s one letter at a time. I don’t know which is better, an analytical approach or free flow. Maybe neither.

    For several years I read comments creative writers made about their work and found each one had his or her own voice, style, technique. I suppose it’s an individual thing. I would enjoy listening to your radio program I think.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      When I use my phone for text messages or leaving comments it is a ‘one letter at a time’ job too. If screens get any smaller, I’ll give up all together.

  4. nrhatch

    When I wrote papers in college, I sat at the typewriter and typed the paper . . . sentence by sentence. No outline. Just one sentence leading to the next.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      I type sentence by sentence, but the first paragraph may be moved further down when I edit or removed altogether, and the title often comes from the finished piece.


A penny for your thoughts...