Revealing interview with Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down. Thanks to my agent Elizabeth Wales for the link.

“When I write a book, I invent the process anew every time.  It’s about maintaining files  and grouping information as I’m reporting and assembling it in a way so that I’ll be able to find it again when I need it.  I then shuffle the files as I’m writing in order to organize the information for ready access.  I continue to report as I’m writing.

I always outline.  I start making outlines for anything I’m writing, whether it’s a magazine article or a book, very soon after I begin reporting.  It’s an old newspaper reporter’s habit.

When you have the story organized in your mind, it helps you with the reporting.  It helps you make decisions about what is significant to you and what is not. 

An outline is a very fluid thing.  I change it many times over the course of writing because I find that in a long piece of writing, essentially what you’re doing is thinking the story through, carefully.  On these stories you can’t hold them in your head all at one time.  The only way to experience the story is to start doing it.  And once you start doing it you find yourself pulled in different directions, so if you adhere rigidly to an outline before you begin writing, in my opinion, you cut short any insights you gain through the process of writing.”