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Author who writes for a living and lives for writing. // WOMB: a novel in utero (Merge Publishing 2017) // TRACKS: A Novel in Stories (Atticus Books 2011) // FLIGHTLESS GOOSE, a storybook for children (Writers Lair Books 2008) // www.EricDGoodman.com

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

McDermott on Stumbling Along

When it comes to writing fiction, Alice McDermott believes the best way to write a novel is in the dark—figuratively speaking, that is.

“There’s a danger in loosing enthusiasm if you know the plot before you start writing. It’s best, for literary fiction, to begin without knowing exactly where it’s going.”

That’s in direct conflict with what many other successful authors suggest—that you should begin with the ending in mind, plot ahead to know where you’re going.

But it’s not like Alice—New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award winner, Pulitzer nominee—doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

“Novels open up—one thing leads to another, unexpected and unplanned. The puzzle of putting it all together.”

One such puzzle, for Alice, was That Night.

“Writing That Night was a slow process, lots of rewriting, following the language, letting characters show what to write next. It’s a process, stumbling along. A lot of hard work.”

But when done right, it’s a lot of hard work that pays off.

“Don’t be afraid of what’s next. The novel will fill in from behind. It won’t peter out if you’re interested in the story.”


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