Monday, September 21, 2009

Confessions . . .

. . . of a haphazard outliner (aka - do you write . . . out of order?).

As Lady Glamis well knows . . . I'm far from the most organized outliners. If you want organized, check out her posts here, here, and here about outling. As for me . . . well, I confess, I sometimes write scenes/chapters . . . out of order.

Gasp. Shudder. The Horrors. Someone call an Exorcist. Where the heck's the holy water? Does garlic work? Silver bullets?

Seriously, people, it's not that bad. You see, writing out of order is my way of haphazardly outlining. Do you like how I effortlessly combined both titles for this blog into the post? Neat, huh?

Picture it . . . I'm writing away, say on Chapter 4, and suddenly - a vision of overwhelming brilliance. I see Character A confronting Character E . . . at the cemetery . . . or at the base of a grand staircase . . . or on the roof of a dilapidated building . . . or . . . anywhere. I stop what I'm doing and furiously begin working on this additional scene/chapter that will happen much later in the book.

Now, back to Chapter 4, done, finished, onto Chapter 5, Chapter 6 . . . and the furiously written out scene is still in my mind. I know where I need to take my protagonist. I don't know all the details between Chapter 6 and this fabulously, brilliant scene that will take place at some point, I just know I have to get there!

There's an equation, of sorts, (okay, not the actual equation Lady Glam talked about, but I figured since I was mentioning equations . . .) to my madness. It goes something like this . . .

Chapter 4 + Future Scene = Series of Events That Need to Happen so Character A Gets to Future Scene.

See, it's really a simple equation. The fact is, I often write scenes out of order. I cannot help when a scene/chapter will begin to form in the deep recesses of my mind. I don't know what prompts my mind to flash forward three, four, ten chapters to an event that I feel is needed to . . .

Character Motivation + What Character Needs to Get What He Wants = Character's Main Action = Chain Reaction of Events Based on the Main Action

Whoa, did you notice how I effortlessly worked Lady Glamis' equation into this post. It's a talent, people, a deep, dark talent that I don't reveal to just anyone and . . . Oh, great, my secret's out. Now, I'll just have to kill every single one of you. Kidding. I just always wanted to work that line into a story . . . and a blog post counts.

Anyhow, the fact is, even haphazard outling counts as outling. There's no need to reach for the holy water, silver bullet, or whatever when you write a scene out of order. It's. Okay! The Writing Police aren't going to hunt you down and haul you off to the Asylum. Well, at least I don't think they're going to hunt you down and haul you off to . . .

This Blog Post Has Been Interrupted by The Writing Police. We Do Exist. Scott is now safely ensconced in a padded room without any means of writing. Not. One.

So, do you write scenes out of order? Does this help you in getting from The Beginning to The End? Does it just confuse the heck out of you? Are the Writing Police knocking on your door?



Marybeth Poppins said...

I am way to organized for that...and somewhat obsessive. Everything has to be in perfect order. BUT when it came time to edit, I found it more beneficial if I just chose random chapters.

Scott said...

Marybeth - I like the idea of editing chapters out of order. I might have to try that during the next editing phase of whatever project.

There are times these out-of-order scenes never make it into a book. My mind just wants to flashforward every now and then, so I've learned to go with the flow, write the scene/chapter, and then flashback to where I was before I had the moment of brilliance. Ha! This haphazard form of writing seems to work . . . for me.


Tess said...

Crap, I knew the Writing Police were real! My husband tried to tell me it was just an insurance salesman at the door, but the pocketful of pencils and Strunk and Whites under his arm had me wondering....

And, no, I don't write out of order. I do jot down ideas for later though, so I don't forget them. You are a mad genius and I can imagine you scribbling away and piecing it all together into a perfectly cohesive ms.

WindyA said...

OK, Scott. You. Me. Same boat. Well, almost. I think you're probably still in a way more organized boat.

I am ALL over the place. I just write what comes to me, then go back later and then go back to put it in order.

If you've read The Time Traveler's Wife, (other than the character age thing), you know how her scenes are all over the map? Yeah, mine are like that in my first draft. Then I go back, with a new clean document, cut and paste in and voila!

Plus, for me anyway, it totally helps flesh out where the story really begins and ends and helps me get rid of the "fluff" scenes.

Nice to know, I'm not completely alone.

Davin Malasarn said...

I write out of order all the time. That doesn't mean the order will keep, but like you, I think it's perfectly valid. It probably just depends on how much of our story we have imagined before we get things down on paper. Sometimes I have some end scenes that I think would work well, so I try to get them down before I forget them. Great point, Scott!

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I'm with you, Scott! Sometimes, when I'm having trouble getting past a scene, I'll just skip it and start writing the next one, where I know what happens. It makes it so much easier to go back and write the other scene after the later one is written.

And it really weaves the book together, by planting details in early chapters that relate to later events.

I don't believe in the writing police though. But even if they are real, they won't come to Boise. Nobody comes to Boise. ;)

Scott said...

Tess - LOL. Thanks for the tip about the Strunk and Whites under the arm. I knew that guy following me looked suspicious, and those weren't Encyclopedia Britannica he was carrying. : ) I think even jotting down ideas for later counts as writing out of order . . . somewhat!

Windy - I'm glad to know I'm not in the boat alone. Then again, writers who break rules traveling together in packs makes it easier for the Writing Police to scoop us all up in one fell swoop. We may have to rethink this banding together thing. : )

Davin - most times, I have no clue where (or if) the scene might fit later in the book. I just get an idea, go with it, and - most times - everything seems to fit into place. Also, a lot of times, fleshing out a dramatic scene early in the book gives me the stepping stones to reach that point. Yeah, Lady Glamis calls it outlining . . . I prefer the term haphazard writing. : )

Amy - there's a new invention called the GPS and I hear the Writing Police just received a shipment of them . . . that include this fabulous place known as Boise. I wouldn't answer that knock on my door. : )

ElanaJ said...

I write out of order, sometimes. I rarely start at the beginning and I hardly ever know the end, so I sort of muddle along until I've what loosely resembles a book.

I'm trying really hard not to do that anymore, though, because it makes the revision process pure hell.

So this time, I'm going to outline. Yeah, not Lady Glam outline because, really, this is me we're talking about. But I'm making notes. I'm not even writing, which I usually do no matter what. But nope. I'm saving this wordage for NaNo. And in the next 6 weeks, I'm hoping to have the entire book mapped out.