So I had this dream that I was doing a conga line led by Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and Wally the Green Monster, except there was no music playing, and it was morning, so nobody was drunk. And there was an audience, only they were there for something else, so they were a little confused, but they would occasionally toss out halfhearted words of encouragement as we awkwardly shuffled by.
Then I had this other dream that I finished the outline for my novel-in-progress.
Ha ha, just kidding. One of those things actually happened. The other will never happen, ever.
It’s true. While I will conga at 9:30 AM/sing/wear a gold sequined hat/sacrifice a goat for the Pops, I can’t write an outline to save my life. Like, literally, if Al Capone had a — um, un-filled-out Form 1040 pointed at my head, and he was like, “OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL NOW, TOOTS!” I probably still couldn’t do it.
Some people can outline a novel the way my cat Bert I. Gordon pees on the bath mat — with elegance and aplomb. I am not one of these people. I know this now, after months of trying to outline to no avail. I’d thought, “Hey, I have a deadline, I need to be efficient! No more dipsticking around with scenes willy nilly! OUTLINE!” It was such a good plan. Here’s my progress:
Character: Redwing [This is the title of the book.]
Conflict: Something bad happens.
Then I drew a picture of goggles.
Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that the Plan was not working. So I wrote a scene instead. Then I wrote another scene. I still don’t know how the story ends, but, theoretically, I will have a novel soon. So, theoretically, my publisher won’t end up visiting me in the night with cement overshoes.
It can be very tempting to try to change your process when faced with the new demands a contract brings. Do I have to write more often, and with more purpose, than before? Absolutely. But I wrote scene by scene before, and that’s still how I have to do it, whether or not I have a potentially fatal deadline (and if you do have one, click that link and read Laurie Ann Thompson’s post). A kirikuchi char can’t change its spots, as they say.
I know this is not that revelatory, and also that I have difficulty both spelling and saying “revelatory.” But as I, like the other Emus, go from “signing contract” to “fulfilling contract,” I’m learning one thing at a time. So if you’re wondering whether to instantly become a different sort of writer, let me cast my vote for Team Write How You Know.
I’ve also learned that the conga is not my dance. In fact, it’s no one’s dance. So you should all come over and we’ll do the electric slide. I can show you one step at a time. Just don’t ask me to outline it.