The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Edith Wharton's Thoughts on Writing

HTML Giant has published an essay on craft that contains several excellent passages by Edith Wharton. We've excerpted some below. Read the full article here.

On a the challenges facing fiction:
The distrust of technique and the fear of being unoriginal—both symptoms of a certain lack of creative abundance—are in truth leading to pure anarchy in fiction, and one is almost tempted to say that in certain schools formlessness is now regarded as the first condition of form.
 
Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before; for though one of the instincts of youth is imitation, another equally imperious, is that of fiercely guarding against it.
 
True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.
 
On the necessity of experience:
As to experience, intellectual and moral, the creative imagination can make a little go a  long way, provided it remains long enough in the mind and is sufficiently brooded upon. One good heart-break will furnish the poet with many songs and the novelist with a considerable number of novels. But they must have hearts that can break.
 
On plausibility and the short story:

The moment the reader loses faith in the author’s sureness of foot the chasm of improbability gapes. Improbability in itself, then, is never a danger, but the appearance of improbability is…
 

On the novel versus the short story:
The chief technical difference between the short story and the novel may therefore be summed up by saying that situation is the main concern of the short story, character of the novel; and it follows that the effect produced by the short story depends almost entirely on its form, or presentation.