I’m only speaking for myself here, and not all writers everywhere, obviously, but more and more I have been thinking of novels as articulations. The process of writing a novel is, for me, the process of trying to articulate something – a sense, a feeling, a truth (even if only personal) – that requires a novel for its full articulation. Something important. Every sentence, every minor character, every scene – even (especially) those that might at first seem redundant – is a part of that attempted articulation. So me writing a novel is me trying to articulate something. But I don’t know what that something is until I’ve finished the book. As a consequence, I feel as if I always fail in this articulation. That’s not to say that I’m not proud of my novels, or that I think they are without merit, but they are all failed articulations.
I am happy with this though. The process – the attempt – results in novels that I believe are interesting and worthwhile. They are more maps than treasure – maps given to the readers for them to see if they can find the meaning, the sense, the feeling / truth that I thought required eighty thousand words or however many for its conveyance – but that is better, I think. For the articulation to be powerful, for it to be felt, for it to be successful, the reader has to complete it with their own life, and what matters to them.