Margo Rabb is the author of the novel, Cures for Heartbreak. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including, The Atlantic Monthly, Zoetrope, New Stories from the South, among others. She’s contributed pieces to the New York Times and Slate and lives in Austin, TX. To learn more about Margo’s work, visit her website.
Margo will be teaching a class for WLT on September 6, called “Mapping Your Novel.” Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.
Scribe: Nabokov once said, “Style and Structure are the essence of a book. Great ideas are hogwash.” Do you agree that structure is paramount in a novel?
Margo Rabb: I agree that structure is incredibly important in a novel, but I also agree with the Somerset Maugham quote: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” The novel is a unique and tricky art form, and all rules can be broken. That said, I’ve found that mapping out my novels as I’m writing helps me turn convoluted, meandering drafts into workable narratives.
Scribe: As a writer, what part of the “mapping your novel” process have you found the most challenging?
MR: Honestly, I find every part of writing a novel extremely challenging! I think the hardest part is to keep the faith that all my early maps, notes, outlines, and messy drafts will actually lead to a finished book. It takes a giant commitment to see the process through.
Scribe: You’ve written essays and articles for the New York Times and Slate, among others. Do these same structure techniques apply to nonfiction?
MR: The process of writing a novel is very different from essays and short stories, because you have to keep track of multiple characters, plot strands, settings, and events over the course of 300 pages. I don’t map out my essays or short stories before writing them, but I find it extremely difficult to finish a novel without a map–it’s like driving aimlessly for a thousand miles with no directions.