Writing a novel without knowing how: Notes from my voluminous Burning the Rain Girl files

To begin without knowing how to do it: That has been my approach, and I have agonized like a man sitting in a field with many ingredients of a house laid out before him and a panicked feeling that he has begun before he is ready. He has begun without a plan. He has no blueprint. He simply got it into his head that he could dredge up many interesting things from the well and the lake and the river and the field and the attic and basement and from people’s pockets and scraps of paper and things copied out of other books and hauled these things in a wheelbarrow out to a field with enough room to stretch them out and lay them where they could go, and worked on each piece with passion, making each piece as interesting and colorful as he could, lavishing attention on each piece and then moving on, having some dim notion of a pattern that links them all but spending much time out there in that field of disconnected reveries and chimneys and rocking chairs and kitchen utensils just walking around until something strikes him and he goes off again to retrieve another piece thinking This! This is it! This piece completes it! but when he comes out to the field he sees again that none of these pieces are really connected, and some of them seem kind of stupid and dull, now that he takes another look, and realizes that he has this problem of becoming overly enthusiastic, which partly just fuels his enthusiasm to bring these pieces out, because physical strength is needed, too, not just whatever you think of as inspiration or intelligence but sheer energy to drag this stuff out here, and sheer curiosity to find it and not to judge it as worthless but simply to drag it out.

Thus it began.