Writing Out of Order
Yikes, it’s really been a while! Sorry!!!
This post may not be a revelation to many writers out there, but the following idea was quite a discovery for me: writing out of order.
Sure, I’ve heard about it before. Somehow, I always thought this method was reserved for wizards and other super-human types. :) I thought my boring brain was too logical, my inner editor too bossy for such marvelous creative chaos.
And then in the middle of my semester, my advisor challenged me.
The beginning chapters of the manuscript I sent her were fraught with problems, she pointed out (quite gently). I yearned to try and work those out right away. But she said, “no. Leave the beginning alone. Send me some middle scenes instead.” She only wanted to see the scenes that explored a relationship between two particular characters. With the next packet deadline looming, I couldn’t afford to write in order. I had to try this crazy new upside-down way.
So I dove in, terrified (and a little excited, too).
Oddly enough, the first thing I started with was an ending. I wrote backwards from it for a while, then I jumped into late middle. Then I went kind of all over the place, in true jigsaw-puzzle fashion.
Only now, after more than a month of this work, am I allowing myself to return to the beginning again.
It’s been crazy how good it felt. Like play. Like candy. My bossy left-brain inner editor, totally disoriented, just gave up and left me alone to indulge. My characters, emboldened, seemed to come to life.
I used to think it was important to write in order so as to trace the main characters’ arcs, to watch them grow. But when I wrote out of order, I discovered things about my characters that I could go back and build toward instead. Now that I am looking at the beginning, I am amazed at how much better I know my protagonist and those close to her.
Part of the reason I enrolled into the VCFA Writing for Children and Young Adults program was to reconsider my process. I had tried NaNoWriMo, tried to take longer with a rough draft, tried an online Holly Lisle class, etc. All this time, I have been seeking a deeper, more honest way to write. I believe writing out of order is a big part of the answer.
Writing out of order. Scary — and freeing. Have you ever tried it? Do you think you ever will?
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