22 October 2009

Writing Out of Sequence

by Morgan Barnhart

Many of us have been taught to write straight from the beginning all the way to the end, without any breaks or skipping ahead or moving back. However, some of our minds don't work that way.

Let's say you are imagining an event that is just awesome and you want to write it down so badly but it doesn't come till much later. What do you normally do? You make a note of it and keep on trucking down the time line.

But why not just write out the entire scene and save it for later? Get it out of your system so your mind can focus clearer on other parts of the story. Write the parts that you can imagine in detail and worry about filling in the gaps later.

There's nothing wrong with writing out of order. It can actually be healthier for your progression into the story since you're getting everything out before worrying about the boring details in between. Just make sure you keep track of which part of the story it belongs in.

Do you write out of order?


  1. This is actually great advice, I know my mind doesn't go in a straight line and I'm more productive when I work with that.

    I think this what I need to hear right now. I'm on chapter 6, but I'm a little stuck. I have my plot all worked out, but I'm not enthusiastic about the scene I'm at. I'll jump ahead and then connect the dots.

    Thanks Morgan!

  2. If someone asked me to write a story straight through from beginning to end I'd probably implode. I haven't been able to do it yet!

  3. I think what you describe is the best way to work. I don't write novels but many long documents and never ever write these from start to finish but work on each one like a jigsaw puzzle. Just got to be good at checking at the end that none of the important bits have been missed out.

  4. I'm glad we're all on the same page. =)

  5. I'm wondering if writing out of order really only works best if you already have an outline.

  6. I definitely see the benefit of having an outline and being able to quickly take whatever scene from that outline and write it. However, I never have an outline (a downfall of mine) and I find it just as easy to write out of order.

  7. That's kind of a liberating thought...I like it :).

  8. I don't have a bit of organization skill. When I sit down to write it's almost as if I'm getting ready to go for a long walk or a bicycle ride. I don't know if I'll turn left or right or go straight when I reach the corner. But when I decide to throw the bike in the back of the truck and take it to the trails down by the river, I ride much further and am far more focussed. So, using the comparison as an analogue, I really should develop an outline. It's interesting - this has caused me to look at my writing in a new light. I'm very undisciplined. I think I'll try to develop a bit more direction for the coming days.

  9. I can't do the skipping-ahead-filling-in-later thing, even with an outline (which I only started using in the last few months due to requirements in my college classes). Take the story that is the bane/hope of my existence: I'm stuck on chapter ten, know what's going to happen later, but just can't get past where I'm at now. (Partly because I made the mistake of letting my spouse read what I had- in the hope of getting some brainstorming time- and he pointed out so many things that need to be fixed, that I am paralyzed to continue until those things are fixed, but when I go back into the document to try to find them, my eyes cross and I end up missing the pieces I am looking for.
    But that's just me.