Umberto Eco when asked for advices, likes to tell people that he writes from left to right. Given his enormous sense of humour that could have been anticipated.
The following is a list of advices he gave during his career through his interviews, articles, essays. The following text has been based on those sources.
Please keep in mind, that some of his popular novels is a tiny percent of his works. He published 49 non finction books.
- Inspiration is overrated.
- Books take years to write. They are like children, they grow in years and evolve. He wrote his “The Name of the Rose” in 2 years which is quick due to his extensive knowledge he had from being a scholar on medieval times. Other Novels took more time to write:
- 8 years - Foucault’s Pendulum for he knew how this book is going to start and finish but he didn’t know what will go inbetween.
- 6 years Baudolino
- 6 years The Island of the Day Before. Idea for this book was initiated by a Journalist question.
- 4 years The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
- In order to prepare he collects documents, visits places, sketches faces. When he writes his book, nobody knows what he is doing.
- He gathers ideas and writes them down. Ideas often come when the body is relaxed. In order to relax his body he swims.
- He travels to places that he refers to in the novels. During those, he record his voice. He likes to walk between places that will end up in a book while holding dictaphone. If he sees a colour and likes it, there is a chance it will end up in the novel.
- He draws models of the ships. He created around 15 models of labyrinths for the “The Name of the Rose”. The goal of the drawn world is to be real. In fact, it has to be so real, that the size and length of those places should dictate the length of the dialogues.
- Writer is a demiurg. He can create a World. Author therefore knows everything but he should not disclose everything to his readers. It is important to remember that author just points some points and the novel writes itself.
- He experienced an epiphany when reading James Joyce’s book.
- World can give a picture more beautiful than this seen with our own eyes.
- He does not care if his reader is educated enough to read his novels. Thus the extensive description on the beginnings of his books that give narrative context but require effort to assimilate.
- Money didn’t change his life. Fame limited his freedom.
- He does not have much interest in how other writers approach the writing process.
- Computer is a very useful tool, because it gives you more time to do the research.
Let’s remember that his library with tens of thousands books was given away. We do not know how many of them were read by Umberto Eco. We know that he had such an insight and fluency in reading that he could grasp the whole idea of a book after reading about 10 pages. It is difficult to compare with such an intellect.
The good thing is that his life and writings can inspire us.