Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Out of Order

I'm 27,000 words into my current work in progress -- over a fourth of the way complete with a first draft. One might say this is a minor milestone to be slightly proud of, but I'm skeptical. Instead of jumping up and down and glowing about how many words I have on the page, I know (and it took me two other novels to learn this) that now is a pretty good time to stop and see if I need to do some course correction.

I've done a lot of experimenting with this novel. I'm writing this draft super slow, with these long, leggy sentences. So my word count is not shooting up that high, which makes me nervous. But, I know that this is the best first draft I've ever had.

I'm also writing from multiple points of view. This story revolves around two couples, and I'm telling the story from each of these folks' POV. I did this at first as an experiment, to get to know all my characters better. But then I liked the concept and decided to stick with it. I've had fifty pages in front of my workshop group, and the jury is still out on whether or not this is effective. The most helpful feedback is that I'm not spending a long enough time with each character, and that's been an easy fix. I'm sticking with it for now.

But the thing I'm doing most differently with this WIP is that I'm writing my scenes out of order. I've heard people talk about doing this before and I thought they were out of their minds. But now I get it. I have, for once, an idea of the plot of this story. So I wanted to write out key scenes and see what they felt like. Then I've been going back and filling in the gaps.

Yet now I wonder if this is harmless and I can keep drafting this way, or if it's a lousy idea and I should just knock it off. Does anyone write this way? Have you tried and it found it to be a disaster? Or has it been an effective writing technique for you? I'd love to hear any and all advice!


  1. I've always written scenes out of order. In fact, for each book I have a file titled "Scenes" in which I write out bits as they come to me. Not only do I not want to forget great dialogue when I "hear" it, but knowing what lies ahead in concrete way, makes it easier for me to see what I need to happen in a previous scene and vice versa.

  2. Thanks for sharing Linda, this is helpful. A few places in my document I have one-line notes about scenes I want to write eventually, kind of as placeholders. Great to know the process works for you!

  3. I like writing things out of order.

    It helps me lock down scenes later in the book, and makes me look at earlier scenes differently.

    When I scenes near the end of a story, I can foreshadow much easier, making it seem like I had all kinds of cool things planned all along...when I really didn't.

    I also find that writing out of order helps me find the scenes that are most important to the story, instead of reaching a point where I'm not entirely sure where to go and write just for the sake of writing and trying to get somewhere.

    With few exceptions -- as long as I know where I'm going with things -- I jump around and write out of order.

  4. Hi Lisa!

    I like to have at least the bare bones of my plot written somewhere - I actually use the late great Blake Snyder's 15 beats from his screenwriting book, SAVE THE CAT, in order to do that.

    And while I'm beating it out, I'll put the scenes that immediately come to mind as bullet points beneath each beat.

    When I go to actually write, I used to write by chapter, but I attended romance author Cheryl Norman's novel class at the Southeastern Writers Association conference last summer, and she talked about writing in scenes - not even using chapters at first. Separating by chapter later.

    So, when I did my huge manuscript revision, after beating out my "new" plot, I did just that. And, I began writing scenes - especially dialogue because I would just "hear" it, like Linda Cassidy Lewis said - and I didn't want to lose it.

    I was VERY happy with how writing by scenes turned out; although, for the most part, I have to say that I do tend to write the scenes *pretty much* in order. There's always a chance I'll move them around, but being that I've got my plot skeleton to begin with, I'm somewhat of a beginning to end type of a girl.

    *Sending positive vibes your way*

    Ricki :)

  5. I maintain order in my scenes but I don't set-up an overall order in the initial stages of a WIP. Because the material shapes itself