Start to finish

From a 2003 interview with ZZ Packer, who’s writing a book about the Buffalo Solidiers:

RB: How long have you been working on this novel?

ZZ: Oh God. I would say about five years. Also, I was doing stories and research and failed, not even drafts, but failed pages.

RB: So you don’t feel inclined to write start to finish?

ZZ: No, I kind of would like (both laugh) to write from start to finish.

RB: It hasn’t worked out that way.

ZZ: Actually in the past year I have been working fairly chronologically as far as the book is concerned. So I think I have what is going to remain the beginning of it. And I am going through and I have about 450 pages (laughs) and it’s really long and I know it’s going to be a lot longer before I gather all the pieces and make sure it’s more compact and revise it and stuff like that. So this year has been good for the novel. Probably because I have been less, since they are literally out of my hands, with the short stories. But previous years I hoped that I could go start to finish and get out a quick draft, but I kept failing and the reason was that I did not know who the characters were. I knew what I wanted to write about, and I had done all this research on the time period, place and flora and fauna and whatever. When I say I didn’t have the characters It wasn’t as if I didn’t think I knew who they were, but when I was writing it became evident that they weren’t clear in my head. And that was really disappointing, to just be working on it for so long — and I am not a patient person. But I have to be patient for it.


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