"I remember [Donald Barthelme] urging me during one conference to consider writing a novel—probably because at the time I mainly wrote prose poems that barely extended into the territory of the short story, and Don always liked to mix things up a bit. The very idea, though, alarmed me. I couldn’t imagine ever writing any single thing that continued into hundreds of pages, and my squeaky timid protest to Don’s suggestion was, “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”Source: Philip Graham, "Any Novel's Negative Twenty Questions"
His response surprised me. “Whenever I begin a novel,” he said, “the beginning never stays at the beginning. It ends up in the middle, or near the end. It never stays put where I started."
I’d always assumed that one began a novel by starting on page one and slogging through to the last sentence, so this revelation served as some relief to me, and made the task of writing a novel appear a little more approachable. Still, I don’t think I fully understood him until I began, years later, to work on my first novel, and found myself putting together its different sections like pieces of a puzzle that had as yet no defined borders, while trying to discover and answer my own secret twenty questions.