Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Out of Order

No, not this blog! No, not the soda machine! I wrote a chapter for my upcoming WiP - you know, the urban fantasy one I talked about the other day on this blog - out of order. This chapter will occur somewhere toward the end of the second third of the book. This is an important chapter that results in the climax of the main conflict, but does not end the story.

What did I learn by doing this?

Well, I learned that if I don't carefully lead up to this chapter, set all the pieces in place, it will come across as contrived. You know how I hate contrived. Blech!

Out of context, the events of this chapter seem contrived.

Out of context, the events of this chapter are going to make the reader go what the heck??!!!

Yeah, I know, my future readers aren't going to read the chapter out of order. The possibility still exists, if I'm not careful, for the chapter to come across as contrived. I don't want that.

In a way, by writing out of order, this one simple chapter, I have outlined . . . in my own crazy way. I now know what stones I need to set to create the path through the enchanted forest to get my characters to the point of this out of order chapter.

So, my point is: writing out of order isn't a bad thing . . . at least not in this instance. I know what I have to work toward so an allegedly spontaneous, pivotal, moment doesn't appear as, well, an allegedly spontaneous moment. This is definitely a good thing.

What about you? Have you ever written chapters out of order? Does this give you a pathway, so to speak, of where you need to go with your writing? Does this create more chaos than order for you, the writer? Comment away!!


jdcoughlin said...


I can't write out of order. At least not for the first go around. After that, I can slip in, not jump. I have to read at least a page before inserting so much as a comma. It's my new rule as I have jumped and badly messed up things so many, many times.
Chaos creator, for sure!

Michelle said...

In my current WIP I have chapters and scenes which I wrote later and will have to be inserted further back. I'm going through it again from the beginning, so I haven't gotten to that part yet. It's the first time I've done that, and I'm feeling overwhelmed about making it work. I know it will eventually, but it may take a few rewrites.

Claire Dawn said...

You know this outlining thing keeps comign up. It occurs to me for us seat-of-the-pantsers, a first draft IS and outline!

Bossy Betty said...

OH! This gives the the shivers just to think about! I am not that kind of girl! Gotta be in order.

Tess said...

This concept intrigues me because it seems so difficult. I do write a teeny tiny bit out of order in the sense that I will jot down ideas to weave into the next chapter or page .. but to actually write that page?

nope. can't do it.

so, I am impressed and interested to learn of how these different processes work for other writers. There really is no 'one' way to the end.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I have written out of order and it worked so well. After getting stuck on a particular chapter, I skipped ahead and wrote the easy chapter, the one where I knew what would happen.

As it turned out, by fleshing out the easy chapter, I ended up creating some details that made the earlier chapter writable. It was like magic!

Scott said...

JD – I don’t always write out of order, just every now and then I’ll get an idea for a later chapter within a manuscript, write it down, and then work my way towards that event. There are times when the chapter never gets put into the manuscript.

Michelle – see my comment to JD. A lot of times, if I’m watching TV or whatever, my brain kicks over into writing mode and I start thinking about the project. It’s normally at this point where an idea for a later chapter occurs and I grab the notebook and start writing away. I think I’m always thinking ‘ahead’ with my manuscript – i.e., this character needs to confront that character, or a scene needs to take place here – and I just go ahead and work through those ideas.

Bossy Betty – a little OCD? Everything in its proper place and time? Ha!

Claire Dawn – you’re right, for us seat-of-the-pantsers, the first draft is normally the outline. I have been known to mini-outline based on conversations I want my characters to have. Hey, it works . . . at least for me.

Tess – I’m not writing tons of chapters and/or scenes our of order, just a handful, well, maybe two handfuls as ideas occur to me a) during the writing process, b) while driving down the road, c) while watching tv, d) while walking the dogs, e) wherever or f) all of the above. Ha! Again, sometimes the chapters/scenes never make it into the manuscript, but the majority of the times they do. In this instance, the chapter/scene made me realize that I really need to lay the foundation of the path leading up to the chapter/scene very, very carefully.

Scott said...

Amy - oops, I was posting as you were posting and they crossed in cyberspace. Go figure. I've done the same thing as you have. It's amazing what happens when we change things up a bit.

Cynthia Reese said...

I'm with those who can't write out of order. I revise out of order, but I can't WRITE the initial draft out of order.

But I understand that lots of writers do it with mucho success -- Margaret Mitchell, for instance, is said to have written that fabulous last scene of GONE WITH THE WIND first.

Elana Johnson said...

I do a lot of writing out of order. Whatever words I have in my head at the time, come out. Then I can carefully string them all together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it doesn't matter. Every word I write is practice for the ones that will be published.

Scott said...

Cynthia - see Elana's comment, because that's the perfect answer. "Whatever words I have in my head at the time, come out." That's why I write out of order sometimes . . . the words in my head are clamoring away and the only way to silence them is to write the scene/chapter . . . so I do.

Elana - you rock, but of course, you already knew that!

Davin Malasarn said...

Just like you say, Scott, sometimes I write out of order and it helps me to see the path I have to get or keep my characters on. I used to be resistant to it, but now it's very freeing, especially if I feel stuck. I know that you and I also both write from the perspective of different characters, and sometimes it helps me to jump forward to another character and then fill back to get to the original character.

Scott said...

Davin - I think in our own, unique, way, writing out of order is an outline of sorts, since it lets us know where we need to go with our story. You're also right about the multiple character perspective and the filling in stuff. Sometimes, when soemthing isn't working, I leap forward, then back, then forward, then back again. It works.

Lady Glamis said...

I simply cannot write chapters out of order. I've never been able to do it. I hope one day I can be like Davin and just jump in and do it, even though I'm resistant to it now.

The problem is that I discover things as I write, and they are important things that change the course of the novel. I suppose I could work backwards, in a way, but I think I'll save that for a future novel.

Scott said...

Lady Glamis - I just go with the flow. Nine times out of ten, the out of order chapters occur when I'm thinking ahead about what needs to happen. If I get inspiration, I jot down some notes - some might call it outlining. There are times when the inspiration is so strong that I'll write an entire chapter out of order. I figure who am I to mess with Inspiration?? She's fickle enough as it is at times, so if suddenly She's raining down on me, I'm certaininly not about to open up an umbrella so I don't get wet. : )