First of all, I had a fantastic interview with Andre Dubus yesterday afternoon. He’s touring for the paperback release of the of The Garden of Last Days, and we had great chat. Look forward to it in our July issue.
One thing he and I talked about was outlining. Like myself, he rarely plans out where he’s going, and we had a fine time agreeing that it was good not to have everything laid out ahead of time. However, I do not want to give the impression that I think people who do outline are going about it all wrong. Indeed they are not. Indeed there is no right way. Jeffery Deaver writes 200 page outlines. Alan Jacobson also outlines in great detail, so much so, that he finds himself writing his novel in the outline.
What is interesting is this penchant for outlining does not always bleed over into a writer’s life. For instance, in this month’s issue I spoke to YA bestseller D. J. MacHale. He outlined the entire arc of this ten book series in one shot. And yet, if he goes on vacation with his wife, she plans everything, and he wants to go wherever the wind takes him.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you trust. If you outline meticulously because you don’t trust that your imagination will be there for you in your hour of need, then in all likelihood it will not be. Your imagination would like nothing more than to help you all it can, but it needs all the latitude you can grant it. Likewise, you can’t feel constricted by structure. Sooner or later, your book, story, or poem is going to have to take some kind of shape. Here you’ll have to be less of an artist and more of a craftsman. Enjoy it. Give your right brain a rest and let your linear left brain do what it does best – organize.
But trust, trust, trust. A central theme of my interview with Andre Dubus circled around this very subject. He agreed that one must let the book happen. As A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh notes: A hum must come to you; Rabbit, on the other hand, never let anything come to him and would always go out and fetch it.
Embrace your inner Pooh.