Here's Dexter on how he got started:
BB: So, did you want to be a writer when you were growing up?Dexter started off as a reporter:
PD: No, never. I took two writing classes at the University of South Dakota but it was just because I found out that I didn't want to be a mathematician. I started looking through the student book there and saw Creative Writing and figured if I can't bullshit my way through that then I don't deserve to graduate, even from the University of South Dakota. But I never took it even semi-seriously. I mean I didn't read anything until... it's a true story than when I wrote Deadwood, my brother Tom called me up and said, "You've now written a book longer than any book you've ever read."
BB: Did you sense yourself building towards a novel while you were writing the column?I've quoted this on this blog before somewhere, but it bears repeating: Dexter in an interview with NPR's Scott Simon, on story telling:
PD: No. Nothing like that. I don't have any long-range plans even now. I just always assumed what was going to happen. I'm not a fatalist or anything, but I just assumed things would go some interesting way. And they did. But there was no plan or anything.
BB: So you never felt a desire to be a novelist?
PD: No, not really. I'm sure it went through my head. Like everyone is always saying they want to do that, they sit around bars talking about it, "I'd like to write a novel." I didn't even do too much of that.
SIMON: Now that you've had a chance to look back at your work 20 years ago, and more, what makes a good column and a good columnist?Dexter on screenwriting:
Mr. DEXTER: I think your instinct has to be to confront. If you're the kind of guy that comes to a peaceful lake and you know there's birds floating around on it and it's early morning or something and you're happy just standing there looking at that beautiful sight, then maybe you're a photographer. But you know, if your instinct is to toss a rock in the pond and watch the birds come up and watch what it does to the surface of the water, to me it's that interruption of quiet, which is not just about what column writing is about, but it's about what writing itself is kind of about, when you think about it, you know.
Essentially, a script is 120 pages, most of it white space, and the writing doesn't really matter except the dialogue. That's the opposite of writing a novel. I knew writing the script wasn't going to take as long as writing a book or be as much work.Again with the Bronx Banter, Dexter -- he doesn't do many interviews -- goes into his writing process:
BB: In the afterward of Spooner you write about how much time you spent cutting stuff out. Was it really hard to you to make those choices and cut it down or was that actually enjoyable?Because writing is a verb, and so is reading. Dexter speaking to the Muholland Times:
PD: I didn't dislike the process. Two hundred and fifty pages were cut and most of it was culling sections, cutting them down. There's probably 50 pages I cut from the high school section, and 50 pages out of the Philadelphia section. I guess I did sort of enjoy it because as I was doing it I could see I was making it better, and that's not always the case. There are times I'll spend a whole night re-writing and cutting stuff and the next day I'll go in and look at it and could see I've uh... I might as well of just died a day earlier because this is worthless.
I always think about it as meeting the book halfway... You’ve got to be willing to commit yourself to not sitting back and having it happen to you. Reading’s not just a passive act. You gotta bring something to it.