This is not a book review per se; it is thoughts on what many people have to say about the best way to write a book. Should the author begin with an outline, or should he simply sit down to write, and watch where the story goes? Or, should he do a combination of both? Personally, I like to begin with a character, put that character into a situation, and let the story evolve from there. I may resort to an outline as I near the end of the book, because I need to make sure that various points are pulled together as the story winds to a conclusion. I have sat down to write a rough outline when I wasn’t sure what should happen next in the story. But no, I am not comfortable with outlining an entire book before I sit down to write.
Some people can weave such odd stories when they sit down to write. The Hundred Year House is one book I would like to read again, not so much because the story is so convoluted, but because of the way Roberta Makkai uses the language to carry her point.
On my first read-through, I did not believe that this story had been outlined. It is too organic. One event springs from the next, and the next, and the next, and the story takes such unexpected turns, that it would have been impossible for the author to have outlined it before she sat down to write it. Then, as I was preparing to write this little review, I explored what Roberta Makkai had to say about this book on her website. She said she writes her stories backwards. She began the book in the present, and worked her way back to what had caused the situation. You do not know, until you reach the end of the book, which is in fact the beginning of the story, why things worked out the way they did.
What a fascinating way to write a story. Instead of considering what must inevitably happen next, you write thinking in terms of what created the situation you just wrote, then move on to what created that situation. It is an unusual way to conceive a book.
I believe that many short stories must be conceived that way, as when planning the story, the author must understand how it will end before he sits down to write it. In this instance, the author opened with what would be the final scene in the story, and the further the story progressed, the farther back in time it went.
Give me your thoughts on this – and keep on writing!