The Joys and Hazards of ‘Knowing’ where you’re going

I’m not an outliner.  That’s what I tell myself, at least.  I’d been saying the words with pride, as if the “organic” process I implied would allow me to charge more from my moral high ground (that’s the way it works in agriculture, right?  Maybe not.)  As I’ve started to write longer and longer stories, first 12k, then 65k, then a series of ~30k that are closely tied together and now what will become well over 100k with I;ve stopped being so smug and started outlines.  Nothing huge, mind you, but something.  The number of the chapter and the basic goals I want accomplished by it.

And it works.  So much so that I had to outlin chapters 1-12 of Arizona Afterwards before I could even begin.  I didn’t stick to it.  I didn’t have to.  The characters had far better ideas than I did, and I found some things happening in Chapter 4 which I hadn’t planned until Chapter 11, if I’d planned it at all, and that’s okay.  I don’t argue with my characters.  They’re smarter than me, and in most cases they could kick my ass.  Especially Hattie.  And, the novel built up enough momentum that I could let it flow without outlines of chapters 13 – 25…  If you’re reading Arizona Afterwards at the same time I’m writing it, feel free to go back to those chapters and compare them to the earlier ones and see if you notice a difference.

Anyway, outlines aren’t evil, and they won’t kill the creative process ANYWHERE NEAR AS MUCH AS NOT KNOWING WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS NEXT WILL WHEN YOU ARE WRITING ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND WORDS OF ZOMBIE NOVEL.  That is my way of saying that I have outlined the rest of Arizona Afterwards, and I know how it ends.  It may change, sure, but I know that I’ll be standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

It’s such a fine sight to see.

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