Not being a sports fans, I'm not much on sports metaphors. But in the thirty-some years I've been writing fiction, I have to say that I've come to regard the experience as one long boxing match played out in the dark. You just keep swinging, hoping to knock down your opponent--your own limitations of imagination and competence and stamina.
Outlines sometimes help but not that often and not that much, not in my case anyway. Not outlining gives me a sense of total freedom which is heady as hell until I walk square onto the first trap door. You can be imprisoned in that dark dank nether place down there for a long long time.
I don't mean to over-dramatize here. Most of the time I write with some fluidity and ease. Most of the time. But I'm soon punished for it by the days when the plot turns get dumb and the writing gets even dumber.
Fellini said that every picture was a war for him. That's a bit grand for someone like me. He had to worry about dozens of actors, locations, props, etc. All I have to worry about is why my magic computer has suddenly let me down.
I mention all this because I heard someone on Book TV say that he wished he wrote commercial ficton because he wouldn't have to worry about being (profound). You know, dashing off pop fiction is so damned easy.
In the course of a novel I go through depression, extended headaches, insomnia and the kind of distraction that makes me even worse company than usual. As Carol and I sit there watching TV I'm revising the scenes I wrote that day.
Again, I'm not trying to over-dramatize here. I'm sure that many if not most of us pop fic hacks go through much the same process. And in some odd way it only adds to the satisfaction of finishing a book that isn't quite as much of a disaster as you once feared it was.
But fighting in the dark never gets easier, does it?