Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

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.  jigsaw

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?


April 16, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized, VCFA Adventures, What I've Learned Series, Writing Mirror | , ,


  1. I DO love writing out of order. Mostly I do that when I have some emotional experience going on in my own life. I try to utilize the emotion of the moment to infuse a scene that parallels my experience in some way. It’s kind of fun to really pound those keys when I am angry. And of course sometimes I just know certain parts of the story better than others. I like the way you worded the idea of writing toward your characters’ experiences.

    Comment by joycemoyerhostetter | April 16, 2014 | Reply

    • Wow, Joyce, sounds fascinating! I have never really channeled my emotion of the moment into my writing this way before (or at least, not in the way I was aware of), but I do know what you mean when you talk about knowing some parts of the story better than others. Which, incidentally, helps prevent writer’s block, doesn’t it? Don’t know where to go from here? Make a jump someplace else!

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 16, 2014 | Reply

  2. I have never tried this. In fact, I can’t quite imagine it. Interesting post.

    Comment by Rosi Hollinbeck | April 17, 2014 | Reply

    • That was me just two months ago, Rosi. I couldn’t imagine it either!

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 18, 2014 | Reply

  3. I have’t tried this yet. Since I work from an outline, it sounds like something I can do.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | April 17, 2014 | Reply

    • Yes, Medeia, wth an outline (and an openess to surprises), this can be a lot of fun.

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 18, 2014 | Reply

  4. Hmmm…I always thought the “out of order” thing just sort of happened without thinking about it. Basically, if you’re thinking about a problem or scene or character or whatever, randomly, or something triggers a scene, regardless of where it may happen in the story—you stop and write it down. Kind of like when you come up with a great piece of dialogue or an idea for a scene, you jot it down and eventually they find their way into the book. Doing it as a technique, to help promote creativity sounds like a great idea. So glad you mentioned it and that it worked so well for you! 😀

    Comment by writersideup | April 22, 2014 | Reply

    • I guess I too used to think writing out of order was something that “just happened.” But I don’t see why you can’t MAKE it happen, if you want to. 🙂 One could think of this as a “technique to help promote creativity,” sure. I now think of it as an integral part of my process.

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 22, 2014 | Reply

  5. Many authors tell us they began with a single scene, and wrapped a story around it. Orson Scott Card had a vision of kids playing a game in free fall as the seed for Ender’s Game. Stephenie Meyer started Twilight with a chapter in the middle, a conversation between a girl and her cool boyfriend.

    Comment by Toby Wallmark | May 11, 2014 | Reply

    • Exactly! The timing for this comment couldn’t be more perfect, Toby, as I look for my way into a new project. Thanks for the reminder!

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 11, 2014 | Reply

  6. […] For one year I re-envisioned my previously prose novel in this exciting form. It liberated me, writing out of order, not worrying about ways to connect the moments. Not at first anyway. In my last semester however, […]

    Pingback by What I’ve Learned, MFA in a Nutshell, Part 2 | Writing and Illustrating | February 12, 2015 | Reply

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