A novel is a living organism

I realised recently that a novel not an artefact, it’s a living organism.

My novel Eternity exists in physical form across many pieces of paper. Some of it is printed by computer and some by hand. Eternity also exists in digital form on my computer, and in various files and folders on the computers of all the people that I’ve sent it to. It exists in the cloud and in email accounts.


This is what my novel looks like…

Eternity also exists in my head. All the words I’ve written. All the words I haven’t written. All the words that I’ve written and then deleted. All the words I’ve thought of writing and haven’t written. All the words that I’m going to write. They’re all in there somewhere.

I’ll finish this novel. But see, I’ve finished it before. I’ve finished it at least five times. And I’ve read it, and decided that actually it wasn’t finished, and I’ve started writing it again. This will of-course continue to happen. I’ll finish this novel again and then I’ll give it to an editor and they will tell me that actually it isn’t finished and so I’ll write it again.

This novel will never really be finished. One day I’ll just decide that it’s time for me to stop writing it. But there will still exist in my mind, all the possible ways I could have written it. All the endings that I didn’t include. All the characters and conversations and events that I chose to leave out.

I’ll publish this novel. And people will read it. And then it will exist in their minds too. And this novel will look different, depending on whose mind it’s in. Including my mind.

A published book is a snapshot of a novel. The book is a photo of the novel. The book captures the essence of the novel.  

A book is an artefact that represents a novel.

But a novel is a living organism.

Alexander Toums