The Mark Blog

Hey Outline, you took my fun away. I want it back.

So the program begins. After receiving directives from my instructors, I was given the task of writing an outline. Now, this may seem a bit strange, but like many writers, I am not exactly the linear type. Haruki Murakami said it best:

“I don’t think about an outline when I’m writing a novel. Not one thought whatsoever. That’s because if you start thinking about an outline, you lose most of the joy of writing a novel. “

High five, Haru! D to the I to the It to the To. You know what I mean. IN the event that this horrific assignment is ever given to you, I’ve taken the liberty of supplying you with an outline of how to outline a novel. No thanks necessary, just remember me when you're roman numeral-ing your way to insanity.

The Novel Outline

      I.     Write a novel to outline without the knowledge that you’re going to have to outline it.
      II.    When you have that, submit the novel to various workshops, conferences, and writing programs.
a.     Get rejected by workshops, conferences and programs.
b.     Get accepted to workshops, conferences and programs.
c.     Repeat a and b.
d.     Don’t forget to beg and plead to get more help from programs (ie. Emerging Voices) you’ve already finished to see if there are any possibilities to suckle of their writerly bosom with another opportunity.
e.     Once accepted to aforementioned novel coddling program (ie. The Mark), spend three days thanking every god you’ve ever heard about or angered.
      III.     Go through a “defense,” which involves sitting in an antechamber tied to a chair while very intelligent people demand why you think you’re a writer because they don’t think any of your non-outlined novel is worth the multi-purpose paper it's printed on.
      IV.     Go to Happy Hour.  Get a grip.
      V.     Receive an email listing five directives from each instructor about what needs to be done to save your literary wreckage.
a.     Stare at those for a while.
b.     Wonder how is it possible that there is not one repeated directive.
c.     Remind yourself to write an email to the one instructor who calls your protagonist ‘Miriam’ that it’s actually Muriel (out of courtesy, of course).
     VI.     Reread the directive that asks for a two-three-page outline of your novel.
a.     Laugh out loud.  Surely this person is joking.
b.     When you realize that this is not a joke, try not to become apoplectic from the grade school memories of “outlining” with actual pen and paper.  No bullet button?  How have I come this far in life?
    VII.     When writing gets serious, the serious go to the library.
a.     Remember the library is filled with books written by people.  You fall into that category.
b.     Try to figure out the difference from a homeless person and a writer.
c.     While wondering how to begin an outline, guestimate the number of books in the lapl library database that have been outlined.
d.     Get angry.
e.     Begin.
    VIII.     Try to avoid accidentally slipping in WWI time line and any mention of Archduke Ferdinand.
a.     Become frustrated because it is difficult.
b.     Google to see if anyone else has written an outline of your novel.
c.     Since no one has outlined your novel, see if tweaking the outline of Crime and Punishment would work.
      IX.     After typing the last period of your outline, back it up on a floppy disk (otherwise known as hitting the save button).  Remind the librarian to turn off the upstairs lights.
      X.     Send it off to instructors who respond quickly, dashing your hope of returning to the days when teachers were too tired to care.
     XI.     When the teacher asks questions about your outline, pretend your wifi is on the fritz by texting him that you will email answers tomorrow.
    XII.     Lie in bed for hours wondering what hell your outline wrought.  Curse your fate at two in the morning.
    XIII.     Wake up the next morning after three hours of sleep and wonder how to make your outline better. Send revised outline and block your teacher’s email.