Jennifer Egan talks about how she wrote A Visit from the Goon Squad



At Wordstock, Egan said she began with a when and a where (not a character or plot, the way many writers do).

While she writes all her journalistic pieces on a computer, she writes her books by hand. She laughingly said she doesn’t really have much direction when she writes, and said, “I don’t know what I’m writing.” Then added that was sometimes literally true because her handwriting is illegible (boy do a I sympathize). She said she was looking for something spontaneous, organic, a sense of time and place. Then she sits back and says, “What is it?”

She said she made three rules for herself with Goon Squad:
- Each chapter would have a different main character.
- Each chapter would have a different mood, tone, feel
- Each chapter would stand on its own.

She also talked about how the chapter in PowerPoint was added only after the book was sold. In a different interview, she explained, "It's the most openly sentimental chapter in the book, which I was able to do only because the coldness of the form let me go there. If it were written as conventional fiction, it would be the schmaltziest bore anyone has ever looked at. It only works because of the cold container. So it ends up being this very emotionally honest chapter, but structurally, it feels like the heart of the book to me, and I think the book almost didn't have a heart."

Read more of her interview here. I really like reading interviews with Egan, because she talks a lot about her process, which I find fascinating.

When she spoke at Wordstock, she said, Powerpoint (which she had to learn for the book, and it sounded like her laptop lacked the memory for it) is discrete moments separated by gaps - which is like the book. She also said the book was, for her, like a concept album.



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Loved this book. Hoping to catch her this weekend at the Boston Book Festival. Thanks for the post!
Like Egan, I have illegible handwriting.

Unlike Egan, I would NEVER write a book that way.
I love her writing so much!

Also I love that red chair in the picture.

I wrote my novel Storky in longhand because I'd been writing lawyer stuff on the computer and wanted to keep the two types of writing separate. But, geez, longhand takes so LONG.
I don't think I have anywhere near the patience for longhand. Although I used to keep journals in longhand.

The red chair is the symbol of Wordstock. They have an oversized chair at the entrance, but I don't remember seeing them on stage before. There were two on this stage: one for Egan and one for Greg Netzer, the director of Wordstock, who interviewed her.
thanx, interesting... i sometimes start a scene longhand to get into it, get it rolling, then finish it on the computer... I wonder if by hand or typing changes which parts of the brain you are using