Sure, the dreaming part is fun and freeing, but the organizing and writing down of plotlines and themes is tough business. It’s much easier to forget all that and just sit down and start writing and see what happens. But if you check what most writers who don’t outline have to say about their work habits, you will discover that they end up doing several drafts of a book and any number of rewrites afterwards.
I don’t. I do one draft, one rewrite, and I’m done.
Is this because I’m a better writer than they are? In my dreams. No, it has to do with how you want to allocate your workload. The truth is simple. You can either do the hard work up front or do it at the end. By outlining, you are doing the hard work in the beginning- the thinking, the organizing, the weighing and considering, and the making of choices. By doing it early, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort at the end. Put it off, and you pay the price later. Writing requires a certain amount of suffering for the pleasure it gives back. Nothing you do will ever change that. But you can help yourself by distributing the load.
If anything in your life is more important than writing – anything at all – you should walk away now while you still can. Forewarned is forearmed.
For those who cannot or will not walk away, you need only to remember this.
Writing is life. Breathe deeply of it.
The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.
When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.