I ran across an article edited by Joe Fassler discussing Andre Dubus III’s viewpoint on writing.
I like this article even though I’m very much of a top-down writer so can’t agree that Andre’s way is the way to do things.
The part which sticks for me is this:
So you can dream by being curious—by being curious enough to report back what’s in front of your narrative eye. I love that line from E.L. Doctorow: “Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights—” but you keep going until you get there. I’ve learned over the years to just report back anything that I see in front of the headlights: Are they yellow stripes or white? What’s on the side of the road? Is there vegetation? What kind? What’s the weather? What are the sounds? If I capture the experience all along the way, the structure starts to reveal itself. My guiding force and principle for shaping the story is to just follow the headlights. That’s how the architecture is revealed.
For me, outlining, organizing, and pre-thinking of everything is what lays that road down for the car to drive on at night. Then I can drive with reckless abandon, leaving the road from time to time, always finding my way back to the road having enjoyed the detour. Or I can even go “Sunday driving”, slowly taking the scenic route and just enjoying the ride. Whatever my driving mode, curiosity is at the wheel.