Writing Out of Order
Are you a logical think? A top-down sort of person, or do you allow your mind to just go wherever it wants (or perhaps it just does without your permission)?
I’ve always considered myself a very logical sort of thinker. I do very well in logic puzzles and took to computer programming in college (even though I didn’t stick with it). But thinking top-down, sequentially, chronologically, it almost defines me—or so I thought.
Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s nothing, but recently I’ve begun writing a bit (not fully) out of order.
I used to plot my books, create my characters, figure out just about everything I could before I began writing. I would then write my using my outline as a guide. I would always add in scenes where they were needed—I didn’t plot out every single scene, just the ones needed to move the plot forward, the characters toward or away from their goals, move the romance toward its natural conclusion (complete with bumps along the way, all carefully plotted out beforehand).
But starting with the first book in my current series, I’ve been slowly growing toward writing out of order; not plotting quite so much before writing.
It started because I’m under contract with a small publisher who is insisting I write 80,000 word books—about 15-20k longer than I usually write. In order to get the first book that long, I had to go back and add scenes when the book was nearly done. I did the same with the second book in the series, but even more so—I not only added events, I added a character who provided another subplot (a secondary romance).
In the third book, which I’m in the process of writing now, I was unable to plot it out fully before I started writing. Real life was interfering with my ability to focus and I wanted the escape writing would give me. (When I write, it’s like reading or watching a movie. I become so involved in the story, the real world just goes away and I can forget about it for a little while. It’s very relaxing and good for my mental health.)
But now, as I am about to write the scene that marks the midpoint of my story (at barely 30k words into the book when I should have about 10k more words at this point to reach my 80k word goal), I realize that I’m missing a lot in my story and I need to go back and add it in. This is great for my word count, but it means that I’m actually writing out of order. I’m not writing chronologically and this just astounds my ordered brain.
I know it will work out well—maybe even better than well. Maybe it will make for a better book, but it’s a drastic change in the way I’ve always thought, in the way I’ve always written.
What about you? Do you write chronologically? Do you make a practice of writing out of order deliberately?