Loretta Lynn Said It:
"You have to be different, great, or first."
(From Austin Kleon's cool post it collage.)
I have my novel open on my computer. I know what the next scene is. I even know what the chapter after THAT is. I just don't know what the next sentence is so rather than actually work, I'll blog.
It's like warming up. Doing a little jog before the race.
In the warm glow of last night's drink, I promised something...oh, shit. Right. Organic versus outline. The whole stupid, how do you write your novel thing. David is right, vegetables (organic) versus outlines would be better. I don't outline. Outlining is for hacks. I believe in the difficult but fulfilling process of finding my novel as I write it; letting inspiration and the shape of what I've already written shape what comes next. Which is why I've thrown this novel out five times already.
But outlining is mechanical. It limits the subtle interplay of character and situation that make a novel unexpected and, well, art. Which is why its for hacks. Like William Faulkner, who outlined one of his novels on the walls of his study. (Okay, I think it was The Hamlet, which is not one of his novels that is, you know, taught at college, like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, or even Light in August.)
I tried outlining a novel, my second novel, and it was my least successful. There were probably other mitigating factors to that. I had written half the novel over a period of many years starting my senior year of college, abandoned it and written my first published novel, and come back to it. I had changed a lot and a lot of what the novel was about, I no longer felt quite so keenly about. The novel was originally written in two different tenses and I allowed myself to be talked out of that, which was, in retrospect, a mistake. And I wasn't a very good writer yet.
But I blame the outline.
Still, after thrashing around in this current work, I'm thinking an outline might not be a bad idea. I have been thinking about writing this thing a lot lately. (Not, you will note, actually writing it.) And it seems, when I am not actually writing it, that if I outlined it, I could, you know, bang it out pretty quick. Which might mean that when I get to stage four of the novel process chart (from the last post, the stage that says 'This Really Sucks') I might not throw it all out. I might actually finish it.
I thought, when I threw it out and started over the last time, that it was because it was not first, great or different, to cite Loretta Lynn. But maybe it was just because I thought it sucked.
If you subscribe to the theory that the two great structures of literature are 'A Stranger Comes to Town' (the Iliad) and 'Someone Goes On a Journey' (the Odyssey) then the book I am working on now is 'Someone Goes on a Journey.' I don't actually subscribe to that theory, and I'm pretty sure no one actually does anymore. But it's useful to think about that when thinking about the novel and the outline.
Besides, if I'm outlining, I'm 'working' without actually having to work. Right?