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What order do you write your stories in?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Zander Willmore, Nov 18, 2019.

  1. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

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    Do you write your stories from start to finish in order as one chapter to the next? Or do you jump around?

    Most of the time I write in order. But when I get stuck on a chapter I skip to another chapter and work on it until I get ideas for the chapter I am stuck on. I have the chapters pretty much outlined so there is no confusion on where things stand.

    Does going out of order throw off your story or does it help when you get stuck on a part?
     
  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

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    I'm not really a linear writer and do sketch out chapters and scenes that will come later on in the narrative, and then fill in between them. I don't do most of the story that way but definitely some of it. If I think of a dialog exchange I'll want to use later on, I'll write it out now—and doing it might give me ideas for what I want earlier in the story. I think of it as sort of like painting. One doesn't start on one side of the canvas and work across. One dabs here and there until the whole thing turns into a picture...and you never expected that purple to be next to that green when you started.
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  3. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Sage

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    I have to write in chronological order otherwise my tiny brain can't cope.
    When I'm planning I can random scenes then insert them once I get to that scene, but when I'm actually writing jumping around just confuses me.
     
  4. Helen

    Helen Sage

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    I tend to write the first draft in order (get it down) and then work on different areas in later drafts. If I get stuck during the first draft, I'll write a later scene from an organic outline.
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I do a outline before I start writing, so I usually write in chronological order. But when I'm putting together the outline, I may jump around doing that.
     
  6. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Minstrel

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    I write mainly in chronological order.

    But sometimes I discover that I missed a scene which is needed to make more sense of the story or a character remarks on something that happened in scene which I didn't write and I go back and add that scene in.
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I plan stories to get a sense of the overall arc, to know roughly where I begin and end, and how to get from the one to the other. This usually results in an overly-optimistic outline that winds up getting abandoned rather quickly once the writing starts.

    Lately I've been setting up files in Scrivener in place of an outline. That is, one file for each scene, whether or not I've written it. I can move things around if needed, and I always have a Misc folder where I can write scenes that might go here but might go there.

    The benefit of the approach is that I tend to keep momentum. There's always a scene somewhere that looks inviting.

    The downside is loss of continuity. This can be as simple as changed spelling on a name or a date reference that's wrong. More seriously, I might write something that requires retconning earlier chapters. Or, I'll write a later scene--usually something dramatic--while my characters are still in embryo. I haven't quite settled their voices yet. That develops as the earlier chapters get written. Then I get to that later scene and have to rewrite it to maintain consistency. I've sort of given up trying to fix that. I'm satisfied with my level of productivity and am not looking to "improve" it. This is how I work and what works with my work. I embrace the difficulties along with the benefits.
     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I had the epilogue written for book 3 before I was past the first 5 chapters of book 1, heh heh. That’s an anomaly, (and details will change, but I will write all over the place). Sometimes I will stick to chronological with one POV for a while, then jump backward in time to another POV... or forward. Whatever is working at the time gets done. Writing in a strict chronological manner is what I tried to do years ago, but I’ve found I’m better off writing the destination and then finding my way there than I am trying to find an unknown destination by wandering like Moses in search of the Promised Plot Point.
     
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  9. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    I'm definitely start to finish, writing the first draft as cleanly as possible. The process for me is much like reading a book.
     
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  10. CelestialGrace

    CelestialGrace Minstrel

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    I jump around ... it took me way too long to realise that this is a valid way to write and so I fought it for years; feeling as if I wasn't a real writer. Once I accepted that this is how I write I was able to make far more progress and finish more work.
     
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  11. MrNybble

    MrNybble Troubadour

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    Finish it from start to end in a quick fashion. Go back to fill in missing details that usually doubles the word count. Inserting new chapters between old ones.
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I start with a scene - any scene anywhere in the novel, and then I work backwards and forwards from there. After that comes the revision bit, which is all over the show. I will have made notes as I wrote, and I just go through them one at a time. But a big part of that is maintaining continuity - so for example if I suddenly decide a character has a back story I have to jump through the entire book, reference by reference to make sure everything fits.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    We begin at the beginning, continue until we get to the end, and then desperately try and throw on the breaks. Sometimes a scene will rattle around in my head and need to be written right then and plugged in later, but for the most part we're extremely linear, extremely structured writers.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >for the most part we're extremely linear, extremely structured writers
    and I hate you for it. <g>

    I just finished posting on this in Writers Work, but now I gotta ask. If you begin at the beginning, I assume you have planned the plot. Maybe down to scene list level? Just curious.

    My question, though, is: how do you know when to start writing? Does the planning stage have a kind of checklist, and once all the boxes are checked, off you go? I've got something along those lines: do I have all the MCs? their physical description, name(s)? Same for secondary characters. Logline (first draft), theme (tentative) ... there's a whole list to the checklist. Do you go proceed from that, or is the transition more, er, organic?
     
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  15. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

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    Before I start writing I come op with a chapter outline for my novels and story outline for my short stories. I know what order to go in. Sometimes I add scenes or chapters and rewrite my outlines.
     
  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Not only by scene list, but by conversation and by each chapter and scene's goal. My wife is our plotter (she likes to handwrite while she thinks) and this bit here turned into about 3 short chapters.
    20190830_171322.jpg
    Everybody in the cast has a job to do and marks to hit, and our detailed outlines help us make those goals.

    How do we know where to start writing? It may sound simplistic, but we begin when the story begins, with the inciting incident, often in medias res just to spice things up. We're urban fantasy writers. Go big or go home.

    Here's the first couple paragraphs of our first book, Faerie Rising...

    The little bell above the shop door preceded the desperate cry of, “Winter, we need you!” The urgency in her friend’s voice tore the wizard’s attention from her task. She dropped the open box of sterile surgical instruments on the long counter and rushed across the back-room clinic, passing the city map of Seahaven, Washington that took up one entire wall. On the map were red dots and a concise note for every violent incident this year. It was the end of October and the map was so covered in red that it looked like it was inflicted with a virulent rash. She pushed her way through the thickly-beaded curtain into the still-darkened storefront.

    It was hours before the rest of the shops in the Historical District would open. The sun was just trembling on the mountain’s lips and the deep shadows cast by the century-old buildings left the street so dark that the streetlights were still lit. Through the doorway walked Giovanni and Katherine, though ‘walk’ might have been too casual a description. He leaned heavily on her smaller frame, his dark skin ashen even in the dim light, but she bore his weight easily with her right arm about his lean waist, holding both his and her jackets in place against his back. Katherine kicked the door closed behind her and showed Winter her face, fair beneath the thick spray of blood that glittered on her skin and hair.

    Winter swallowed down the rising bile of panic as the meat smell of heavy bleeding reached her. In her experience, that was the smell of a loved one’s violent death.

    She had seen a great deal of death.

    After that we have the plot's gist, as we put it. The vague idea of what's going to happen in each plotline and subplot and how they all tie together. Then we write even more extensive outlines to cover that material and I'm off to the races. Sometimes surprises pop up, like now our dwarves ride war bears.

    Also, I know I harp on this a lot, but have you tried OneNote to keep your character notes in order? I first picked it up in academia and now I can't live without it. 2019-11-04 (1).png
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >How do we know where to start writing?
    Not where, but when? That is, how do you decide that you've done with planning and character sketches and research, and that it's time now to start writing Ch. 1? Is there a formal marker, or is it just gut feeling?

    It's an aspect of writing that rarely gets discussed in the Wise Guide Books. For myself, working now on my fourth novel, so it's barely enough to know if there's a pattern or not, there's a weird transition period. At some point, I am clearly in planning mode; no writing. At some later point, it's pretty much all writing, though I still wind up researching an item or two. The weird transition period is when I'm still in planning mode psychologically, but I find myself writing more and more snippets. Somewhere in there, I just shrug and charge forward. It's very much not rational.

    WRT OneNote, I've talked with other writers who swear by it. Myself, I'm a Scrivener guy. I think we'd both agree that the key is: Everything In One Place! <g>
     
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  18. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    For me, 'mental movie clips pile up.' When I find one that can serve as a beginning, and another as the end, with enough in between to make a coherent story, then it's time to start writing.
     
  19. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Oh! Terribly sorry, I didn't understand the question as well as I could have. That's always a toughie, and as structured as we can get we do believe that there comes a point where the pressure of all the characters and worldbuilding story snippets finally builds into the certain knowledge that now, now is the time to put words to paper. To make pages, as I like to say. It really is a gut thing, like someone inside your belly flips a switch and now we're making headway.

    We also have this thing we do where we write the first chapter of the next book the moment The End gets typed into the previous one. Keeps momentum moving forward and makes for a nice teaser.

    And I always, always, always research while I'm writing (or more to the point I get my wife to do it. :D )

    I would love try Scrivener someday, but it doesn't collaborate well at all, and with three of us we need to collaborate in real time. But! yes, having everything in one (searchable) place is so key to maintaining continuity.
     
  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Real-time collaboration between three writers. You have a rare gift.

    Thanks for the additional reply. I'm fine with certain aspects of writing being squishy. It's good to hear from another writer on this. I don't think I've read a single advice book or column that speaks specifically on how to decide when to start the actual writing.
     
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
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