Linear Writing — or not?

Are you a linear writer? Do you start at the beginning of your story and write straight through to the end? Or are you the sort of person who writes whatever scenes you can envision no matter where in the story the scene takes place?

I’ve always been a rather top-down sort of thinker. In college, 2000 years ago (give or take a few hundred), I learned computer programming (this was still in the days of the 3 1/2-inch floppy disk and when the computer I was learning to program took up an entire room). At that time you had to program top-down. Every command followed logically from the one before it. You could not deviate even the slightest bit or the computer wouldn’t understand what you were telling it to do.

I approached writing in exactly the same way. Time (in my head) is linear, therefore the timeline of my story is as well (except when it’s not in my time-travel books, but that’s beside the point). I needed to write each scene as it happened and each scene was reliant on the scene that came before it.

For the most part, I still write this way. My brain has not completely gotten much beyond this way of thinking despite the hundreds of years that have passed since I was in college. But slowly, ever so slowly, my mind is beginning to toy with the idea of writing out of order. Why now? Why at this late stage of my life am I willing to try something so completely different and new? Because I can, frankly. And because I’ve thought of doing so.

It’s come with working with authors who do not think in a linear manner. I’ve had a couple of pantser author clients and they will write whatever the hell they want no matter where in the story the scene falls. If they envision it, they’ll write it, and then they’ll go back and fill in what happens in between the scenes they’ve already written.

This completely stunned me the first time I heard of it. I was flabbergasted and confused. How could they write out of order? Life goes in one direction. Each thing we do is based on what came before. How can you just skip ahead and then back and then ahead again?

Well, they can and they do. And now I’m fooling with this concept in my own writing.

All right, that was a bit of an overstatement. I haven’t actually written a scene in the future of my story yet, but I’ve planned them! I’ve planned ahead in such detail that I’ve written snippets of conversation, bits of description. I’m slowly inching my way to writing an entire scene before I’ve gotten to it—dipping my toe into that water and seeing if I can deal with jumping in entirely.

You might do this and just think of it as plotting in detail. Or, as I’m doing, you might consider actually writing a scene ahead of its time. What do you think? Do you do this? Does it work for you?

I can see that it could be fascinating and work really well if you’re seeing the scene, if it’s playing in your head. I mean, if it’s there, why not write it? Let me know what you think. This is something entirely new to me and I’m really curious!

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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