Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out of Order

In which I announce the (occasional) return of the No, Seriously. Just Try It feature.

I'm done writing in order. I used to be a "who needs an outline?" kind of writer. I'd start and go along, writing and making it up as I went. I scoffed at planners and plotters and crowed about my free-wheeling spirit.

Now I'm a convert. I've got an outline. And a spreadsheet. And graphs of emotional development and tension. And it's possible I also have a stack of index cards, each representing a scene, which have color coded information and notes on them, including a little box to check gleefully when that scene is written. And a map.

So I know what's going to happen. And every day, I can write whichever part I want, depending on my mood. Usually, I'm excited to write what comes next. But you know those days when you sit down and groan at the scene for the day? When you stare at the page and you can't think of a single word? Or those days when you know you've only got 30 minutes to write and no paper and you're writing on a napkin? Those days, I just write something. Anything. Two paragraphs from chapter 12. The last three lines. The scene where Ant pretends to be on the swim team.

Then I take all that writing and I put it in order in the manuscript. And sometimes, a miracle happens: I go to write chapter eight, and I find... it's already written. And then I think: I rule!

So today's No, Seriously. Just Try It is out of order. Don't try to write what comes next. Just write the part that interests you, even if it's three lines. Then write another three lines from another bit. It adds up. I promise.


Amber Lough said...

I am going through the same thing, and it's helping me out with plotting in ways I never imagined. It's also made writing more fun.

Diane T said...

I do find the outline especially helpful when I'm just not in the mood to write "what comes next." I can skip ahead--write dialogue instead of description, or action instead of dialogue--and then when I'm better suited to write "what's next" I can do with with less stress.

Of course, I've written ahead in my current outline-less project, and while that is sometimes helpful, it doesn't do much to get the "next chapter" ready for critique. Do you think they'd mind if I skipped back and forth months at a time? ;-)

Jacqui said...

Diane T, I will pretend not to notice if you pretend not to notice the glaring inconsistencies in my story.

Amber, yes, more fun. That part surprised me.

cath c said...

this is great advice, would you like to share it on creativeconstruction.wordpress.com with a crosspost?

if so, please email to creativereality@live.com

Marina said...

Sadly, this doesn't work for me -- I write all the "good" bits and then can't force myself to go back and fill in the boring blanks. I have to write in order so I can look forward to the next bit I'm longing to write as a reward for making it through the less exciting parts.

You're probably thinking I should try writing a book that doesn't have any boring bits. I'm thinking that too! But it's hard.

One thing I do find helpful, though, is to write very raggedly through a difficult part -- notes, snatches of dialogue, nice images that occur rather than a fully fleshed-out scene. It seems to get the motor revving again and it's not so hard later to come back and fill out the scene.

Jacqui said...

Marina, "write very raggedly" is a good way to describe it. I do that too.