Saturday, October 13, 2007

Writing Topsy-Turvy

The way I write comes as a surprise to many people, readers and writers alike, but I can't help the way I do it: I don’t write my books chronologically.

Yes, I do start at the beginning and go from there. Sort of. My beginnings have a tendency to be cursed. My critique group laughs at me because I’ll bring what I think is my first chapter with the heading reading only, "Chapter." I won’t commit to it being "Chapter One" until later, because way too often I’ve had to rewrite the chapter—several times, start elsewhere in the story, or (worst of all) trash the section altogether.

Once I figure out the beginning, I generally go on my merry way for several scenes or chapters. But then I can’t help myself; I always jump ahead.

While I don’t write strict outlines of my books with every scene and plot point pre-determined, I do have a general idea of where I’m going. If the plot has points from A to Z, I know what D, G, K, P, and W are. I also know Z. But I don’t always know how I’ll get from A to D or what will fill the gap between D and G. Or exactly how K will develop to that point.

And sometimes even when I do know some of these things, I get really excited about an upcoming scene at say, L or S, and want to write it now. So I do. I figure it’ll come out better when my creative side is on fire about it than waiting until I write another 40,000 words to reach the scene the "real" way. By then my excitement might have petered out, and the resulting scene will be watered-down.

When I fill in the gaps and bridge to the later scenes I’ve already written, some details will have changed, and those scenes that I wrote out of order must be revised—sometimes significantly, sometimes just a tad here and there.

As I’ve mentioned before, I do a ton of my drafting on the fly with my AlphaSmart Neo. If it weren’t for that trusty tool, I wouldn’t get nearly much done.

But with each book, thanks to my upside-down, topsy-turvy way of plotting it out, eventually I reach a point where can’t just sit down and spit out the next scene. I have to be in front of the computer with the entire manuscript before me. That way I can read for flow, see where the holes are and how various scenes need to interconnect, and so on.

As wonderful as the gadget is, I can’t do that on my Neo.

Which makes for difficult drafting of the remaining fourth or so of a book, which for me isn’t the ending fourth of the pages.

That’s where I am now. Some days I have a specific scene I can write on my Neo, such as yesterday, when I sat in the car and wrote as my husband drove us down to Manti for research. (way cool visit, by the way. I’ll report on that soon.)

But such writing jaunts are getting harder and harder as the spots I need to bridge are shrinking and the chronology needs to be clarified and smoothed out.

Which makes my current 4-week challenge, well, more of a challenge for me.


Thanks to everyone who has wished me luck on this last leg.

If only my Neo could help me right to the bitter end . . . sniff.


Jen said...

Congrats, Annette! And I write the same way. I use prompts and things to flesh out my characters and then do plot points and then go back and sort of write chronologically.

Luisa Perkins said...

You can do it! (You have to. You're my inspiration. ;))

Looking forward to hearing about Manti.

Marcia Mickelson said...

I totally write the same way. I write my favorite scenes first and come back to do the others last.

Josi said...

I do the same thing, skipping back and forth, then filling in the gaps. Keeps it interesting, that's for sure. You'll do great!

Autumn Ables said...

AMEN! I have to write this way or I wouldn't get anywhere- EVER. It keeps the story flowing when I jump around. All the pieces will fall together...eventually!

Keep up your awesome work. I look forward to reading about your Manti trip. ;) I've never been.

Anna said...

I'm the same way too. Sometimes I get certain ideas for scenes in my head and I have to get them down while they are fresh. I had to read over my latest work and, although it is choppy, I'm liking where it's going. Just need to fill in the gaps.

Unknown said...

Wow, Annette. This post was an eye opener.

And I notice your Cre8buzz ranking is now 2 -- congratulations.

Brillig said...

Your process is fascinating! I'm not a "writer" but have always wanted to be. I LOVED this peek inside your mysterious ways!

Janette Rallison said...

I wrote my first few books that way--I'd always write the climax way before I got there, now I just press through. But yeah, that first chapter changes/or is axed about half the time.

Julie Wright said...

I'm impressed you can write like that. I can sometimes, but not very often. I have to kjnow what happened just before in order to know what happened next. You are so cool :)


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