Writing Out of Order

Rarely ever do writers write like actors portraying writers in movies. In movies, there is just one draft, no hardship, no long nights editing and crying because you can’t remember how to spell an easy word, no agonizing wait times. Just shiny finished product. Movies make writing seem like the easiest thing in the world, they makes great sentences seem effortless. Actual writers know that is not the case.

Every writer is different. How they write, where they write, how many pages they write a day. The list really goes on and on. There are some writers that start at chapter one (or the prologue) and write through the whole book. There are writers that never write anything in a coherent order and shuffle the scenes around at will. I used to write straight through, chapter one until the end, but more recently, I’ve been able to jump around a bit.

I’ve been writing a series for about four years now. I started with book one, wrote a very little bit of book two, and even less of books three and four. The series is going to be a long one (I hope) of between seven and nine books. This gives me a lot of material to work with and a lot of chapters to write. The only novel I’ve completely finished (besides major edits of the latest draft) is book one. I’ve actually rewritten it 3 separate times, tweaking a different aspect each draft.

Let me tell you, three time writing the same basic plot can be BOOOOORING! So in the latest draft, I wrote out of order for the first time ever. I had my outline, and the plot and characters that I knew so well, and I would like to say it worked. I’m too close to it right now, so it’s waiting to be viewed by a few others before I do anything else.

Since I am writing a series, I can jump around and write other parts while I wait for book one to be readable again. As I said, I’ve worked on a few other parts of the series, writing parts that I felt I couldn’t keep inside anymore, or parts that related to book one.

There are several reasons to jump around, whether you’re writing a long series or just one stand-alone book. Sometimes, scenes toward the middle or end of the plot are more interesting; maybe there’s just one scene that is the epitome of your idea and you have to write it down before it’s gone forever. While there are several reasons to jump around, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Keep an Open Mind about the Scene
The scene could come out just as you see it in your head, or there could be a word or a phrase that sets you off in a different direction, or maybe even ten different directions. Just write notes about your ideas as you write and even scenes it could connect to later. It’s also good practice to keep in mind that the scene could move around, or even be cut entirely based on the finished product. It could even be edited to something that barely resembles the original. There are a million and one possibilities.

Think About Your Outline
Or your idea if you don’t have an outline. Think about where it will go in your novel or whatever you are writing, think about the scene that comes directly before or after, where your characters need to be, what they know, or what they don’t know. This can always be added later, but it is good to think about before you jump in blind.

Write Like You Know Everything
When you write out of order, you might not know all of the small detail throughout your project. You can know the big picture, big scenes and plots, but subplots and transitional scenes might not be as solid. Even if you don’t know it all, write like anything is possible. Write like every detail is already in place and that you know exactly what happens next. Remember, you can always edit it later. Nothing is set in stone.

When you jump around in your piece, whether it’s a novel, script, or anything else, you can learn more about what comes before and after that scene. Whether it’s the same book or not. When I finished book one, there was almost a whole section that seemed off to me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. As soon as I started writing the same section for book two, it became clear what was wrong. In book one, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what needed to be there, and exactly what I was getting myself into. In book two, the character perspective was more advanced and the character knew more about the world around him. I knew his goals better, they were more solid and that made it easier to write book two, and even rewrite the part of book one.

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The outlines and notes for the whole series. It's always good to write down your ideas, even if they seem stupid or weird at the time.

I have a little assignment for all of you. If you’re thinking about writing, or even have something started, but not finished, finish the scene you’re on, and then write the ending. Yes, you read that right. Write the ending. Just try it out, see how it feels, especially if you’re stuck in your current project.

If you attempted my little assignment: How did it work for you? Did you like it, or was it the worst thing in the world?

How do you write your projects? In order, or do you jump all around?

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