Umberto Eco

Q:  Well, if you were to use a computer to generate your next novel, how would you go about it?

A:  The best way to answer that is to quote from an essay I wrote recently for the anthology Come si scrive un romanzo (How to write a novel), published by Bompiani:

“I would scan into the computer around a hundred novels, as many scientific texts, the Bible, the Koran, a few telephone books (great for names).  Say around a hundred, a hundred and twenty thousand pages.  Then I’d use a simple, random program to mix them all up, and make a few changes – such as taking all the A’s out.  That wasy I’d have a novel which was also a lipogram.  Next step would be to print it all out and read it through carefully a few times, underlining the important passages.  Then I’d load it all onto a truck and take it to the nearest incinerator.  While it was burning I’d sit under a tree with a pencil and a piece of paper and let my thoughts wander until I’d come up with a couple of lines, for example: ‘The moon rides high in the sky – the forest rustles.’ ”

At first, of course, it wouldn’t be a novel so much as a haiku.  But that doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to make a start.

via Wired magazine, March 1997