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What’s it Like

Sometimes, trying to write a novel is like interviewing a bunch of suspected criminals. You, the writer, are conducting the interview. The suspects are your characters and they are seldom co-operative. So you sit them down, together and separately, and you ask them questions about what really happened. And you go: was it like this? They scrunch their noses, contradict themselves and each other and leave you confused. But that’s the first draft. Then you take your case to your boss, an editor. Either the editor that lives in your head or some other editor that lives somewhere else. You say to the editor: it went like this. And the editor says are you sure, how about that, how about that? You go back to your suspects, disheartened and disappointed. They giggle at how gullible you were the first time. You sit them down again, separately and together, and you say: was it like this? So you do this a couple of times, each time, hopefully, you feel you’re getting closer and closer to what actually happened. One day several years down the line you storm into the investigating room. This is how it happened, you shout, momentarily certain and triumphant. The suspects have nothing more to say to you, your editor seems, at least for now, satisfied. The birth of a story with none of its parts missing. For now.

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