Writing Out of Sequence

Permalink

An odd thing is happening on my current WIP: I am writing the story out of order.

Here’s the process for this story–which will change, of course, for the next story.

  • Jot down rough ideas for the story. This project is book 3 in a series, so I knew the characters and setting. I just needed to sketch out the main conflict and how it fit into this world.
  • Check continuity issues. Of course, this mean that I had to check continuity issues. What was the name of the homeroom teacher and how is she described. In other words, I had to dip back into the previous stories and re-immerse myself in the milieu.
  • Expand the ideas. Next, I expanded the ideas to a paragraph or more for each of the ten chapters.
  • Check the narrative arc and strengthen. At this level, it’s easy to see flaws in plotting: not enough tension, not enough suspense, not enough at stake, etc. I worked with story line, actually struggling for about two weeks, trying to get all the elements to work together. The result was about ten pages, or one page per chapter. These consist of snippets of setting, dialogue, or character emotions. I know roughly what story beats will be involved, though each chapter needs expansion.
  • Creative Commons; no changes.

    Some sequences are easy to write out of order; some sequences must be written in order or the author gets confused.

  • Expand. With that foundation, I am now writing out of order. The narrative arc is strong, so I’m confident that the planned scenes will actually fit into the story about where I have them now. I am confident of the content that belongs in each chapter. I’m not worrying about fine-tuning each scene, I just want something down and I can turn to any chapter/scene that I want at this point.
  • Integrate. I have about six of the ten chapters written and already much has been revised. I reread the whole thing each day and find weak places to edit and continuity issued to address. This time, I mean continuity within this novel, not necessarily within the series. But I am also going back to Books 1 and 2 to change things for series continuity.
  • Repeat steps as needed. I am working all over the landscape of this short novel and it’s interesting to see it unfold and how connections are creeping into the draft, making it stronger.

Will I use this process again? I don’t know. Maybe for Book 4 of this series, but maybe not for another genre or other series. Usually, each project needs its own trajectory and working method. All I know is that this is moving me forward. For now.

3 Comments
  • Leslie Miller
    December 18, 2013

    Thanks so much for this detailed and useful post about how one successful, working writer creates a novel. I pantsed my first and am trying to plot my second, hoping I can get it done a lot faster. All these ideas really help…

  • Darcy Pattison
    December 18, 2013

    Thanks, Leslie:
    I don’t have the “perfect” method, but it does work for this novel.
    Darcy

  • Barbara McDowell Whitt
    December 22, 2013

    Hi, Darcy,

    Congratulations for having Fiction Notes named one of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers for 2013. This is indeed an honor since according to Mary Jaksch, the chief editor at Write to Done, the sponsor of the contest, over 1,100 writers nominated their favorite blogs.