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Writing Scenes out of Linear Order

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Amerision, Nov 24, 2008.

  1. Amerision

    Amerision Galactic Sheep Emperor DLP Supporter

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    I often find myself stuck at certain scenes like most writers. Writer's block is a common problem among writers and is the number one reason stories don't get updated reasonably quickly after lack of time and lack of planning.

    Some writers, Shezza (according to some of his earlier A/Ns) for example, seem to be able to write in a nonlinear manner.That is, he writes future scenes and comes back and fills in the blanks later.

    I suspect it is partially due to the fact that he's already written the story - in effect he's merely creating scenes out of an extensive, meticulous outline planned far in advanced.

    How many of you out there can do this? I personally can not write out of linear order. I deviate so much from my planning that a scene I designate to be at the end of the chapter often ends up three of four chapters ahead due to the addition of content.

    Share some thoughts.
     
  2. Warlocke

    Warlocke Fourth Champion

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    I never write anything in order. Then again, I never post anything I write, either. A Conspicuous exception to this would be the Draco Kill Off entries I made. Why? Because they only were one scene each.

    I never have an entire story outline pop into my head so I can fill it in from there and whenever I've tried to make one, I have typically failed to come up with anything inspiring.

    I tend to have an interesting idea or a conversation/scene between a few characters pop into my head and I write it down. Sometimes this prompts me to write more scenes or notes that have to do with that same idea, in which case the scenes get moved into their own file and it gets a working title.

    Very rarely do any of these 'stories' ever end up with even the barest semblance of an outline, so I just let the story go where the scenes take it. Frankly, this is no way to write and it's the reason I don't publish anything; nothing gets finished that way!

    The largest of these 'stories', my first one, got to around 78,000 words before I quit working on it, and it never really went anywhere conclusive. It had a lot of interesting ideas (and a lot have turned up in others' stories and become cliché in the years since) but not a lot of cohesion.

    Including my random ideas file, I have written approximately 1,584,141 words of HP fic that has never seen the light of day because I can never seem to write anything in chronological order. If I could, I might be inclined to start posting chapters as I go.

    As it is, I would have to finish a story completely, then publish it. Of course, I've never finished anything either. :eek:
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  3. Shezza

    Shezza Renegade 4 Life DLP Supporter

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    I used to write some chapters out of linear order and I do have a plot, but I usually don't do that anymore. I find that despite any planning or plots or whatever, you always add in little details throughout the earlier chapters that are good to add in the later chapters, for a better flow or whatnot.
     
  4. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    I do. In fact, I did it just the other day.

    There are two types of that for me: writing out of order within one chapter, and writing out of order within the whole story.

    It's different because with the latter, I'm indeed not 100 % certain that I will actually use that scene. They tend to be sudden ideas I get; small scenes I think are cool or whatever. I write them, and then leave them be and get back to them later if they still fit; or not, if they don't fit anymore, because when I'm there, the story changed too much.

    With the former, I never have that problem. Before I start writing any chapter, I have a definite outline what will be in there, and how it will end; the corset, if you will. If I didn't, I couldn't write the chapter for a fact. Some people can simply start writing, I can't; I need a definite guideline that tells me what to write.

    (Which is not to say that this guideline can't change, but if it does, in 99% of the cases, it changes before I've actually written the scenes, which has the added advantage that I don't have to scrap huge chunks of the chapter and wrote them for nothing)


    Having that corset of the chapter standing means I can start writing wherever I like within it; for example, more often than not, I write the ending of the chapter first, before I write anything else.

    And I really like that, too; because when I'm stuck on one particular scene (the bar fight in the chapter I just finished, for example), I can simply skip it and write the next scene.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  5. scaryisntit

    scaryisntit Death Eater

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    I've only written four or five scenes out of order. When I reach them I've had to (so far) edit them heavily. My original plan for my fic has already deviated considerably as I've written and I have no doubt that will continue to occur in the future.

    Still, when I'm stuck at a present scene, skipping ahead works for me in the sense that I get the scene in my head out of it. Also, even if I change how the story goes before I reach the point where that scene is, I've the base down (eg. setting, dialogue) and I only need to change a limited amount (defined by the scope of the changes).

    That all said, I think it works best for me (and in general) when I write scenes chronologically. I can't imagine it ever being easy to write scenes out of linear order simply because of how your writing tends to deviate from your plan on its own.
     
  6. Chime

    Chime Dark Lord

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    If chronology is important to the story, then make it chronological. But if you want to emphasize something else, chronological order is sometimes unnecessary and deficient to that end.

    I mean, it comes down to this: Do you have a story to tell, or a plot to write? If you have a story, just write it. If you're plotting a story, trying to prove a point or carry a message, then you should decide how everything should be arranged.

    Like Warlocke, I rarely (read: never) finish or 'publish' anything, though most of my stories are chronological, I have tha habit of skipping around sometimes. It can be really annoying to a reader, so it gets tricky. You have to start from the beginning of the story and make the notion of time 'vague' to the reader right from the start, I think. Otherwise it just disturbs immersion.

    Oh and I hate flashbacks. Please, if you're reading this, reconsider flashbacks. If you have to tell us something about the character's past, then tell it. If you have to show it, show it in who the character is now. Let the reader guess what happened to him in the past. At the very least, don't put flashback start and end tags in your story (*cries*). It's the worst feeling in the world when someone updates their story and I go to read it and half of the chapter is in bold and it's all flashback (yeah, don't bold flashbacks either pls). (((Never give us a flashback chapter, Shezza. Thanks.)))
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  7. Rayndeon

    Rayndeon Professor

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    That depends on the story. The story I'm writing right now is very much in a linear order and I honestly don't know where it's going to go, since it's very much in a "stream of consciousness" style. Nonlinear writing can make for immensely rewarding stories, but they take a lot of patience to outline painstakingly. If you just keep outlining, it should come to you. The problem is forcing yourself to outline... Most of the time I just think "Forget this! I'll just go ahead and write...!"
     
  8. Methene

    Methene Auror

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    The way I do it, I generally get an idea, a desire, something I want to see and make happen. As such, I have a desired ending in mind. At this point I have no idea what's going to happen to make it so, however. I start thinking about how such an ending could come and come up with a beginning. I then tweak the beginning to make the story seem appealing.

    After writing the first chapter I plan out the story, writing bullet points for the main plot lines for each chapter. I tend to have numerous side plots and it helps me keep track of all of them, as well as predicting when they will come to fruition, both to insert foreshadowing and hopefully, create suspense.

    I share something in common with Sesc, apparently. When I am writing a particularly tedious chapters for some reason, when I am walking on the street, out of my dorm room smoking etc etc (in random moments), I get an idea of scenes that strike me as significant, helping to the point and monumental in nature. I rush back to the computer, open a new document and write the scenes. As the chapters roll around I insert them, changing them to suit the location.

    I do however run into one problem. I never manage to stick to plan when it comes to chapter breaks. I probably overdo the wording, but I always end up changing it, adding, postponing certain things etc.

    It all looks good on paper in the planning stages, but I find I can't quite fit them when I am actually writing the chapter.

    I do have a trouble writing out of order, except for scenes I particularly enjoy, since I am obsessed with making everyone the right age that they're supposed to be, the right timeline and such.

    That is one way of how I do things, the one I use for my main story. For the others, I simply wish to make things happen, write a simple plot structure and create it, adding things as writing makes it seem natural. Still, most of the ideas I get are when I am walking. Especially to Sainsbury's since the bloody store is half an hour away.
     
  9. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    I never write anything in order, I actually have a 'scrap box' with about 50-odd completely random scenes or character profiles which have popped into my head, often the characters are called 'tattooed girl' or 'Alien 1' or just 'character A.' Whenever I get stuck I delve around in there for something or someone to add to my story.

    If the scene or the back-story in my head intrigues me enough I flesh it out to a couple of chapters, the get board and never go back to it like all my stories :(
     
  10. Brian64

    Brian64 First Year

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    I'm not a big fan of fics that are deliberately out of order.. The Matryoshka Vignettes for example, I had to read that Chonological. There's another story called the Orb of Slytherin I think (could be wrong) where the author deliberately screwed the scenes up out of order. Well I had to start screwing them back into the right order before I'd even start reading it... Got halfway through that task before I thought, WTF am I doing? NO story is worth this pissing about! So I deleted that shit. I'm sure someone will reply and tell me the story is 'teh awe50m3!' But I couldn't give a rat's arse.

    Ok, with that said, I think there are some fair reasons for having /some/ scenes out of order. In my own story for example, I had a confrontation occur, and then in the next chapter added the scenes that led up to that confrontation. Reason? I didn't want the reader to be any wiser than the person being confronted. That way they had to try and view the scene and work out for themselves what was truth or not.

    I don't do that often, but I think leaving some scenes to the readers imagination, and leaving some things to be explained later keeps the reader thinking, and when it eventually comes time to reread the story, there'll be at least a few things they'll pick up on the next time through as it'll make more sense.

    For example, who remembers Dumbledore confirming Harry was a Horcrux in Chamber of Secrets? ;) You all read it, but you didn't know what you'd read at the time.

    Cheers,

    Brian
     
  11. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Now I'm not Amer, but I think you misunderstood what he meant. He wasn't talking about stories that are "out of order", internal-timeline-wise (as in, A happens before B, but in your story context, the reader reads B, then A)

    What he was talking about was the writing process. If you start writing your chapter at the beginning, for example -- or if you skip scenes and get back to them later. That has no influence on your story timeline. For example, when I said that I oftentimes write the ending of my chapter before everything else -- it still remains the ending, of course.

    I simply choose to write the very last scene first; within my writing process. How can I make that clearer? Perhaps, it’s basically writing the chapter backwards (that's the extreme, of course. I haven't actually done that yet.)

    So no mixing up the timeline. Just writing scenes out of their timeline-order.
     
  12. Brian64

    Brian64 First Year

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    Ahhh, gotcha. My bad. In that case...

    Sure. I've planned out scenes ahead of time, and a couple of them I've even half written before I realised I was going to be introducing them too early in the story.

    Some things I simply play by ear - after all, this whole writing thing? I'm learning by doing, and from example. Not from any education in what I'm supposed to be doing.

    I've found the temptation to write future scenes is only very slight. For the most part I'm simply writing the story as I go along. I have an overall goal that's subject to change (if I think of anything better before I get there), and some somewhat firmer medium term objectives, and of course the short term stuff that I'm writing about in the current chapter. A lot of my scenes write themselves as the characters take over the dialogue themselves and I'm just the bunny typing what they say. I'm sure the other writers know what I'm talking about.

    Brian
     
  13. Rayndeon

    Rayndeon Professor

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    That's what I meant and said - namely, that I write linearly at the moment given the narrative structure of my current work, but, depending on the story, to write nonlinearly requires meticulous outlining. I apologize if anyone got the impression that I was talking about narrative technique rather than writing technique. I should have elaborated exactly what I meant by "linear" and "nonlinear" - I meant them in the exact sense as Amerison used them and I thought that was understood. Sorry.
     
  14. Andro

    Andro Master of Death DLP Supporter

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    Writing non-linearly is a good way to temporarily circumvent writer's block. The hope is that once I write something that occurs later on narratively, the writer's block will have dissolved. I have the climactic chapters written for each of my stories that way, but the writer's block remains most of the time.

    Medias-res is for pussies.
     
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