Writing Revelations and SSP + The 62 Page Test

Hello, fellow WriMos! It’s week three! Pat yourself on the back. If you’ve gotten even 1,000 words down, you deserve it. Writing is a hard business. This week, I want to talk to you about something that I have been highly conflicted about for the past few years: writing scenes out of order. (NOTE: Of late, I have been jumping around from project to project. And I think that’s okay. For now, I’m going to be referring to my current WIP(s) as the Super-Secret Project, or SSP.)

In SSP, I haven’t really had time to settle down and write exposition, for any of my projects. I’ve found myself wanting to jump right into it more and more of late, and I’m beginning to realize that it often provides discontinuities with my work. I pants (for those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, “pants” refers to the act of writing seat-of-the-pants, or without an outline) almost all of my work, and I really don’t know where a lot of the character development is going, which makes it hard to write, especially contemporary ideas where the main focus of the novel is the characters and how they develop.

So the Question: To Write Out of Order Or Not To Write Out of Order?

A year ago, I would have said, vehemently, no. But I think my view is changing. As I edit my first manuscript in parallel with writing SSP, I’m realizing more and more that, even as I write in order, there are odd breaks in my writing. I can see clearly where I took breaks from my novel, and how disjointed the character voices and plot sequencing is after I resumed writing. The fact is, novels take a long time to write, and life doesn’t really stop for you. So really, there’s a bit of discontinuity in character development, even if you don’t write the scenes out of order. So let’s take a closer look at the Pros and Cons of writing a novel out of order:

  1. You get the scene out of you and done!
  2. You know what’s going to happen later, so you can set up exposition and stuff to match up with it earlier in the story
  3. You get to write something you’re really pumped about, which is always important.
  4. (If you’re a Pantser…) Congratulations! You now know where your story is going.
  1. You don’t allow the story to develop naturally, ESPECIALLY if you’re a pantser, like me.
  2. It’s harder to go back and write the boring parts later.
  3. You don’t get the emotional relief and closure that you feel when smacking “the end” on a truly completed novel, because you know you’re going to have to go back and string the bits together.
  4. (If you’re a Planner…) Oh, goodness… now where does this piece about magical flying unicorns fit into my story?? (And I say this strictly because Pantsers usually end up making the most wonderfully nonsensical stories by jamming together anything and everything they find in the fluff of their brain.)
  5. Come to me plot bunnies! Come to me and feed me wonderful ideas with your carrots and undeniably cute twitchy noses!

As most things go, I don’t think I can decide what’s right for you. I know that for me, personally, it sometimes works to write things out of order, and sometimes doesn’t. With SSP, it’s definitely working. For The CyberWorld, which was more planned out, and had a number of plot twists, it wouldn’t have worked to write scenes out of order.

In general, I personally would not go for writing scenes out of order. A number of my writing buddies have taken this approach, and I’m glad it works for them. I just don’t think it’ll work for me. For me, even when I start writing a scene out of order, I take it and transform it into a number of scenes that have story arcs on their own.

What do you think? Are you an Orderer, or Out-of-Orderer? Enjoy the last week of NaNoWriMo, and above all, remember to have FUN with your writing! 😀

The 62-Page Test

Oh, and just for fun, I decided to do the 62 page test with my novel! For those of you unfamiliar with it, you basically flip to the 62nd page of any novel (or maybe the 63rd… I can’t quite remember, but close enough) and read the first, say, paragraph on that page, instead of reading the first paragraph of the novel. I thought this was quite the interesting idea, so here you have the first lines of Page 62 of The CyberWorld:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 12.12.14 AM

** note: typo on line 1 (I know, embarrassing, right?), but it’s supposed to say “not seeing” not “unseeing”

Excerpt, Novel, and Ideas (c) The Books and Bark Blog

12 responses to “Writing Revelations and SSP + The 62 Page Test

  1. There is a whole website devoted to the pg 62 test. I was asked to guest post there once, and it was fun!

    As for writing out of order, I have only done that once. I was struggling with my manuscript, but kept envisioning a romantic scene that was several chapters ahead. Finally, I gave in and wrote the romantic scene to motivate myself and give me something to work toward.

    Then I went back to the problem area and plunged forward. When I finally reached the romantic scene — I ended up re-writing it completely. Almost none of the dialogue matched what came before.

    Still, it provided me with motivation when I needed it!

    • Is there? I Googled it, but apparently my Googling skills are awful, because it came up with a bunch of car stuff. 😛 Oooh, I’d love to read your guest post! 😀

      Yep, for me this is a first, too. I wanted to write a character relationship (non-romantic) that hadn’t been established yet, and wouldn’t appear until at least 20K in, but when I tried to write that “scene” it just kept on going. I think I might finish the entire thing and then go back and write the exposition (which is probably a terrible idea).

      Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about: writing a lot of good words, and then having to scrap all of them and rewrite maybe less-good words because stuff doesn’t match up… Ah, well. I guess my writerly brain will do what it will. 🙂

      • My mistake — the website is for The Page 69 Test, not pg 63. Close though. Here is the link: http://page69test.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-eighth-day.html

        And I wouldn’t worry about writing good words and having to scrap them for less-good words. I got all the romantic angst right in my out-of-order scene: I had the right setting, I had the right mood, I had the right emotions. I just needed to re-write a lot of the dialogue.

        But I loved these characters, and every time I got to write new words for them, it felt like a win. They are probably my favorite characters EVER, but this is the manuscript that never got sold. I have 3 published books and 2 more on the way, but my FAVORITE characters have never had their turn. 😦

        I am thinking about taking on that manuscript for another go, even if this is the 15th draft. When you consider that — 15 drafts! — a little out-of-order writing hardly matters at all, does it?

        Write what inspires you. Catch up later!!

        • …. Whoops. Well, 62’s close enough. Maybe. (Wow! Your words are fabulous! 😀 )
          Hm, that does make sense. In The CyberWorld there was a lot more internal narration and dialogue, whereas in (one of the projects I’m calling) SSP, there’s quite a lot of dialogue… as well as internal thought.
          Yes, I do find that I am compelled to write out of order only when my favorite characters are around. In my first “novella,” which I wrote when I was eleven or something, the characters were only essential to the plot. In my newer works (The CyberWorld, SSP, Dear Melody, etc.), the characters are more important to me, and I am so much more compelled to write out of order.
          Five books, congratulations! Happy early book birthday! 😀 (Wow, 15 drafts! And here I am, wondering how I’m going to get through the first one… 😛 )
          Have a great day! 😀

  2. I’m a planner personally, but if I get stuck, I like to temporarily become a pantser and write whatever scene is in my head. Then let the momentum I gain from writing the scene bubbling in my imagination carry me through the part I was stuck on.

    • Ah, you rare species, you! 😀 I’m a guided-pantser myself, and so are most of the writers whose blogs I read. What’s awesome about being a pantser is that you get to write whatever you want. Last year, I got super into Mock Trial, and I ended up adding a whole subplot involving the law which wasn’t there before. Pantsing is messy, but it’s fun! 😀

      • I don’t think I could be a pantser permanently. I have to at least have a vague idea of what’s coming next or I don’t feel like my scenes are going anywhere and I give up. But I do envy the freedom of the pantser life. 🙂

        • Yeah, I get what you mean. I feel the same way about planning. Sometimes I like planning out part of the story (e.g. start/end… I like to know where I’m taking my story), but I find that it’s a bit constricting to plan the whole thing out, and I don’t know what my characters would truly do in a situation until I put them into it. Pantsing helps me to get a feel for my characters before I write them, but if I plan everything out, I just lose momentum. Ah, well. To each her own. 🙂

  3. I’ve written both ways, but I must say, as a pantser, I find writing linearly suits me best. When I write out-of-sequence, things get scatterbrained because I don’t know how things that’ve occurred beforehand will affect the future scenes, and then the editing to include those cause-and-effect relationships gets grueling. Especially with longer projects. Which is, incidentally, the one I wrote that way. -_-‘ haha.

    • Yeah, me too! In SSP, I KNOW a thing will happen, but I’ve no idea how to get it there. I feel like as a pantser, writing linearly helps the characters develop “naturally.” Sometimes, when I write out of order, the characterization feels forced. I’m not the best at character development in the first place, and I often have no idea of my main character’s voice before I put pen to paper. Plus, the ending sometimes changes in the middle when I realize a certain decision would make much more sense for a certain character. 🙂
      Ah, I need to get around to reading your book! *adds to gigantic TBR pile*

  4. I am a planner who writes some scenes out of order. I keep it sequential most of the time, but every now and then something happens. I have a dream, or see a picture and then I want to write that scene NOW. It’s fun and shakes things up a little, even though I don’t always end up using it in the final version.

    • Hm, funny how many writers write what they see in dreams. These days, I seem to never remember my dreams, and even when I dreamt every night, I’ve never had a character’s voice come to me in my sleep. I think it’s easier for planners to write out of order. A lot of my friends who DO write out of order are planners, which I guess makes sense, because you know what’s leading up to a certain event. As a pantser, if I get an inspiration for a scene, I sometimes write it out, but it rarely makes it into the story… or, rather, as a pantser, I just write whatever comes to mind, just in the right order! 😛

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