In a perfect world, a talented writer would sit down at his, or her, keyboard and start typing the novel conceived in a moment of brilliant inspiration. The muse, perched comfortably on the writer’s shoulder, would feed your mind one brilliant plot point after another, coupled with inspiring dialog, and in-depth characterization, all in chronological order.
In the real world, writing doesn’t work that way. Inspiration comes in fits and starts, and characters go mute with frustrating regularity. As a writer, your job is to power through these times, much like a miner powers through worthless rock to find hidden gems and treasure.
Writing In Order
Instinctively, the idea of writing your scenes in order makes sense, and all things being equal, probably works best. But, things are seldom equal. Too many writers get caught up in “needing” to write the next scene, but if there is another scene, or another character that is begging for your attention, give it to them.
Years ago at a writing conference I sat next to the keynote speaker, an author with dozens of published titles to his name. I asked him what to do when you wanted to write a different scene than the one that comes next. His answer was to “write it.”
You see, just because you THINK that you are writing in order, books and stories have a funny way of ending up differently than you thought they might when you started out writing them. Every writer, new and experienced, knows that editing a first draft can, and often does, involve moving around various scenes and dialog to where they make the most impact in the story. If you are going to be moving around your scenes later anyway, then how much sense does it make to try and write them in order?
Some writers don’t even keep their writing in order. Some write individual scenes on separate pages just so that they are easier to move. Most writing software comes with a way to do just that as well. Scrivner’s famous note card bulletin board is just one example of a way to keep track of scenes and move them around.
As it turns out, writing your novel out of order comes with the added bonus of making sure that any scene is strong enough to stand on it’s own, as well as being able to fit within the structure without any overly cute hooks.
With a challenge like National Novel Writing Month, it is more important than usual to take the road that offers the easiest, fastest, and most satisfying writing. So, when you find yourself wanting to write out of order, do it. And, as always, just keep writing.