Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing Out of Order

This New Novel I'm working on is still a little fuzzy. I know the major plot points and characters, I know specific scenes that I want to write, and I know the mood and tone I want to portray. But, between all that, I don't know. I don't exactly have an "outline" for this novel, but I do try to brainstorm before writing so I have at least some idea of what's going to happen.

The first novel I wrote, the one that's taking a seat while I work on this novel, was written from beginning to end in that order. I didn't jump around and write later scenes first and earlier scenes last. I just wrote the whole thing in order until it was done. I wrote even when I had no clue what was happening next. I made myself an outline when I got tired of not knowing, and then stuck to the outline for the most part. The end result was messy, but it was a complete rough draft, at least.

Writing this New Novel is different for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that I'm writing it out of order. I wrote the first chapter, and then I started the second chapter and got stuck. I had an idea for how I wanted the chapter to go, but I wasn't sure if that was really how I would want it in the end. The writing was slow. The words would not come. So, instead of forcing myself to write that chapter, I skipped ahead to a chapter/scene I knew needed to be in there and the words flew from my fingers. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

After that experience, I'm convinced that a book does not need to be written in order. I'm not sure why I thought I had to write in order with my first novel, but I am officially converted to out-of-order writing, at least for this book. I'm sure it will be a pain to string it all together in order when I'm done, but the point is that I will have scenes I'm confident in, and not scenes I'm forcing myself to write. I plan on writing the scenes that speak to me first, the scenes that I already have in mind, and the scenes that I know will be important for the book. I will have a skeleton of scenes, but then I can fill in the rest with a better idea of where things are going.

This is weird and new for me, but I'm very excited about it. What about you guys? Do you usually write in order, or do you ever skip ahead and write later scenes first?


  1. When I did my NaNo in 2010, I wrote it very much out of order. I would get up in the morning with a scene in my head that just *needed* to be written - it would be very clear in my mind, never mind that it didn't fit at all (order-wise) with what I wrote the day before. It was definitely a pain in the butt to put in proper order after the fact, however. I was not especially organized.

    With the current MS, I wrote it pretty much in order in the rough draft. When I went back and added more, I stuck to a rough order, but after that, it was all over the place, depending on what I felt most needed to be addressed. Also, once it was all written, I ended up moving things around where they didn't work write. So, you might say it was written in some degree of order, but that order was out of order, if you know what I mean.

    Yet another example of 'do what works for you and your story.'

  2. so far, I've only written in order.. but I say whatever works to keep you moving forward in the story :)

  3. @JeffO Your 2010 NaNo experience is how I feel right now. Maybe I'll try to keep the scenes in some sort of order so that by the end, it's not a complete disaster trying to get them in order :) I always like to know what other writers are doing, but the answers vary so widely that I'm only reminded of what you said about doing what works for you and your story.

  4. I read somewhere that Harper Lee originally wrote Mockingbird as a series of short stories which her editor or publisher suggested she turn into a novel. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I always think about it whenever I get overcritical of myself for not writing chronologically. I really think we just have to go where the muse leads us.

  5. I'm not as skipper... generally. Sometimes, though, a scene comes so clearly, that I worry if I don't write it then, I won't get it nearly as good when I get to that point. I always worry, though, that if I write out of order, things will be different, so they won't fit together as nicely as I thought they would. That, and I worry that I'll write all the fun scenes first, then get bogged down by the rest. But it definitely depends on the book, too! And I say if it works, then that's definitely what should be done.

  6. I always skip around. Especially since a lot of my scenes will just hit me out of the blue and demand my attention right that second.

    Once I have the new scene one paper, I'll keep writing just to see where it goes. A lot of the time this will solve a problem or three that had me stuck. Plus, like you said, its easier to figure out the sticky bits when the framework has already been written.