I am a woman who prefers structure, structure with lots of flexibility, yes, but still structure. In my mind, when I imagine my week or day ahead, I see blocks of black (or dark gray on a good day) where I have activities scheduled. In fact, I like to see most of my days blacked out because then I’m not floundering for activity in those big, shiny open spaces.
So now that I’m in the process of writing this book – details to come later – I’m feeling a bit flayed open because I don’t have a structure. And I don’t have a structure because I don’t know how to make one and because some really wise teachers, like Ted Gup, have suggested to me that it’s best to write without knowing where one’s going. I’m not functioning well with this idea.
Jeff Kleinman once told me that every book, even a nonfiction book like mine, needs to have a narrative arc with the requisite climax and resolution, and I believe him. He’s a great agent after all. And I’ve seen this arc in nonfiction books all the time. My challenge is that I don’t know how to make an arc out of my something – i.e. life – that doesn’t really have an arc to it. I have lots of stuff to say, most of which I think it’s interesting, but I’m just not sure how to pitch this to the stars at some point where everyone gets a thrill, or an epiphany.
What do you guys think? How does one create a structure with a climax for a nonfiction book? Any models I should consider?
For now, I’m thinking of doing what I tell my students to do when they’re stuck with organization. I’m going to write all my big chunks of idea down on separate sheets of paper and arrange them like they’re puzzle pieces or links in a daisy chain. We’ll see where that gets me.
P.S. Didn’t watch TV last night even though, as my students maliciously reminded me, the guys from American Idol were on.