Writing Out of Order
A lot of my writer friends look at me sideways when I say I write my books out of order. The horror on their faces only grows when I admit I even write scenes out of order, jumping around from time-point to time-point until it’s all filled in.
I never realized how odd this seemed to other people--I guess because I’ve always written this way. Way back when I first started writing stories as a pre-teen, a lot of it was fanfiction, and fanfiction is a marvelous medium for just writing the “juicy” parts of a story. In a lot of fanfiction, you don’t need to spend nearly as many words on things like setting up the characters, or the plot, because your readers already know the basics. Want to write a one-shot about Katniss reminiscing about her and Prim growing up? No need to explain what the Hunger Games are, or why Katniss is worried about Prim’s safety, or what their world is like. You just dive right in to the “meat” of the story. The parts you really want to write. Want to write about a romantic date Hermione and Ron sneak off to have in the middle of the search for the Horcruxes? No need to build up their relationship, or explain why they’re in danger, or any of that. I haven’t written fanfic in ages, but I guess the same urge to “jump to the good bits” is still there. So I do. Those bits are often the easiest to write, anyway. And I often find that they’re the most fun for the reader to read, as well. After all, they tend to be the parts with the highest drama, or romance, or action and adventure. (Although, I also love writing quiet moments between characters, so there’s that!) A number of my friends say they couldn’t write all these “fun” bits first, because the joy of writing them is what pulls them through the “not-so-fun” bits. It’s the carrot driving them forward, and the reward for getting through everything else. This makes total sense, but I’ve discovered that I personally tend to ramble in my writing when I don’t have a “goal” scene already written. When I write out of order, I know “Okay, so I have Fun Scene A here and Fun Scene B here...now I just need to get my characters from Scene A to Scene B as quickly and efficiently as possible.” If the middle parts aren’t “Fun Scenes,” I should probably be either trying to get my readers through them as quickly as possible, or finding out some way to spice them up. Of course, this method doesn’t always work. I write out of order much more commonly during early drafts, and stick to chronological writing during later drafts to make sure everything lines up correctly and makes sense. And there are shortfalls to my jumping around like this--a Fun Scene I wrote three weeks before I actually connect it to the rest of the story might end up needing to be heavily editing because Oops, Character B actually died three scenes back... As with all writing techniques, there are pros and cons, and it certainly doesn’t work for everyone :) Anyone else on the write-out-of-order bandwagon? Or are you strictly a chronological writer?