Monday, November 3, 2014

Out of Order

I'm writing like a woman possessed; my cat Phoebe is trying to possess my coffee.
My first NaNoWriMo weekend has been an eye opener for me. I always knew I could crank out a lot of words. When I first embarked on this story arc, I wrote at least a thousand words a day in a fury of inspiration.  It was as I progressed that things really slowed down.  I would get bogged down, still having ideas for what was ahead, but because I didn't know how to get from point A to point J, writing would come to a standstill for months.

So, after the slow-going process of the last several months, it was pretty exhilarating to crank out all the words that I did between Saturday and Sunday: 3,507 words! Whooohooo!  My arm is actually sore from patting myself on the back.

However, NaNoWriMo has kind of opened a new horizon for me as writer.  I decided to try something that I haven't really done before: write a part of the story out of sequence.

[dramatic music plays]

For some writers, this is not exactly a big deal.  But even though I've always been a very spontaneous "Meh, doesn't really matter whether things happen systematically or not" kind of person, for some reason I have this hang-up about writing the story out of sequence.  I don't even do outlines, usually. In fact, I really hate outlines. There have been times in the past where I would jump forward and write, well, maybe a snippet scene or just a brief sketch of a scene so I won't forget it, but I actually refused to develop the scene further until I actually got there in the storyline.

Oh, I'd have flashbacks and flashforwards, but only if they were specifically part of THE PLAN.  Yes, even without an outline, my stories have to written in a certain order.  Certainly, spontaneity is allowed and even hoped for, but only if it's spontaneous at the right time.

But, to kick off my NaNoWriMo novel, I did the unthinkable.

I started writing the end first.

[A woman screams in the background.]

All of this, and I wrote an outline for this novel.

So why the change of heart?  Well, I realized that I was going to have to pound out as many words on the keyboard as humanly possible in 30 days.  Without an outline, I figured I'd get lost and wander around like a stray homing pigeon whose homing abilities have somehow been removed (I should get 100 points for writing the worst simile ever). I need to stay focused.  And honestly? I've had the ending for this in mind, like, ever since I got the idea for this story (well over three years ago).  I'd never written it, because, you know, it would be out of sequence.  But, I figured that this would be something I would be able to write very quickly, since I've been scheming and plotting (hah) it for years.

So, I wrote a scene out of sequence.  And the world actually kept spinning.

I now realize this is something I should have tried a really long time ago. It has been awesome, and it's even helping me plan the things that are going to come prior to this scene.  If things need to change, then I can make a note of it and then change the ending scene.  Not a problem.

It has been so freeing.  So, if you're trapped in the must-be-in-sequence mindset, and find that you can't seem to get any writing done because of it, try jumping ahead to a scene you already have and really want to write. Obviously, you'll insert it into the story in it's proper place, but try writing it now instead of waiting until "you get there." I had been given this advice before and refused it out of hand.  But now, I see that this advice is really good.  At least give it a try once.  Even if you don't like it, the world won't stop spinning!

Do you have any hangups about writing things in order?  How willing do you think you would be to try writing scenes non-sequentially? Share any thoughts or questions in the comments. 

Because of NaNo, posting might be erratic during November.  If you don't want to check back every single Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday just to see if I've posted, use the form in the sidebar to subscribe. You'll get any updates from me sent straight to your email inbox!

1 comment:

  1. I swear, you have the cutest cats! *squeal* Heh.

    Writing scenes out of order is completely normal for me, especially with fanfiction. What I really find challenging is writing chronologically! I'd love to skip ahead in my own NaNo project, but since I neglected to make any real plans or outlines beforehand, I'm still learning about my characters (since I started the month with a good idea of only two characters, and have since expanded to over 30 -most being minor characters for now- as I write) and the world they live in. Until today I had no idea that a sea serpent might be encountered... yeesh. I'm already having ideas for a prequel, though, and so I'm trying to maintain a little mystery about the protagonists' pasts.