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Writing on the fly

Ronan Bennett writes about the precarious process of writing his serialized novel, Zugzwang, which first appeared weekly in The Observer.

For the first few weeks, I was confident, even breezy, about the undertaking. Mark Lawson, interviewing me for Radio 4's Front Row, playfully suggested that the novel had already been written and it was all a wheeze by my publishers (if only). No, I told him, I had exactly four chapters in the bank. And you're comfortable with that? Lawson asked. It's more than enough, I replied airily.

Talk about misplaced confidence.

One lesson for authors considering a similar endeavor: have at least ten installments already finished by the time the first one is published. This will ease any deadline pressure and actually allow revisions to be made before the public sees it. Writing fiction is hard enough as it is without having to get it perfect on the first try.

Bennett, by the way, contributed a very strong essay, "Talking About Emotions", to Voices for Peace. I very much enjoyed the collection and still fully intend to discuss it here - soon, I promise. And I appreciated Bennett's sensibilities in that essay to such a degree that I'm now on the lookout for his novel The Catastrophist, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread award a few years ago.

September 2, 2007 in Books | Permalink