Friday, February 03, 2006

Linear or Non-Linear Writing

One of my Moxie 4 critique partners sometimes drives me crazy by writing parts of her books way, way, WAY out of order. She'll hand me a section she's written and then I'll have to somehow orient myself to where she is in the story. Have Joe Hero and Josie Heroine already slept together by this point in the story, or are they still virtual strangers? And where exactly are they? Have they landed on planet Z or are they still on the spaceship, en route to certain disaster? I adore this lady's writing and think she's bound for an agent and publication soon, but I have to admit that all the little bits and pieces of different stories leave me a bit discombobulated. I know there are many writers who compose their stories out of order, and for them it works extremely well. Whenever my friend throws parts of several different books at me at once, I know she's just clearing the buffer so she can settle down and fill in the missing parts of her plots. But I can't work like that--it would send me right 'round the bend.

I tend to be a linear writer. Not necessarily a linear thinker, per se, but a linear writer. I like to write my stories in order, scene by scene, just because I can watch the story unfold as I go, like a movie. Plus, I think if I tended to write scenes out of order, I'd probably be tempted to write all my favorite parts first and then I'd have less incentive to finish the book. If I lure myself on with the promise of an intriguing scene coming up, I can get through the ones that I know need to be there but by which I'm less excited or even somewhat daunted at the prospect of composing. I had one scene recently that I had to start over three different times until I found the right starting place for it, but I've also had others that practically wrote themselves. Those are the carrot-on-a-stick scenes that keep me going when I might otherwise get bogged down. I'm not averse to moving scenes around and re-ordering them when I'm in rewrite mode. In fact, that happened quite frequently with the last manuscript, Shadows of Memory. But that was after I'd finished the first draft, not before.

So for you writers out there, how do you compose? Are you in linear mode like me, needing to pass A, B, and C before you can move on to D, or do you just write A, D, G, and X in whatever order the muse moves you?

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