Writing out of order when I thought I was following a linear plot.

I have to share with you all my latest experience while editing Eternity.

When I originally sat down to write the story I moved from Scene A to Scene B seamlessly, from B to C and so on.  All my characters wound up where they were supposed to.  The book drew to a close and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Eternity has already been through one round of edits.  My first round is always a cleanup and grow round.  What that means is I do all the spell checks, look at sentence structure, make sure my dialogue isn’t ridiculous and things like that.  The grow portion is because in a rough draft I am not very detail oriented.  That first draft is where I get a chance to fill in the details that will make for a well rounded book.

My second draft is where I look at bigger concepts.  I make sure every scene has purpose and every chapter is necessary.  My biggest struggle is the beginning of my books.  It is painfully obvious my characters and I were just getting to know each other.  They ramble on about things that are important to them without taking into account the need for pacing and flow.

A strange thing happened when I went back to edit this novel during the second round.  I realized that by rearranging my beginning chapters it has better flow, more action, and makes for a much more interesting read.  There are things I pulled from as far as chapter seven that made it into the first three chapters.  A huge scene that happened in chapter three made it to chapter 1.  Some of the layering that happened in the first couple chapters got moved to later in the book.

I had to ask myself:  Did I write out of order?

The simple answer is yes, but I think I have figured out why.  Any writer will tell you their writing and characters surprise them and mine are no different.  I can only write what my characters know.  They don’t know anything until they go through the motions.  They come up with these surprises which throws my plot for a loop.  It would only make sense that I would have to adjust the plot and manuscript to accommodate it.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to see in the moment what ripple effects have on a book.  Only after I take a step away and look at pacing and structure do I see what should have been obvious to me:  my characters genius moments make my book look like it is out of order.

If it looks like it is out of order, then it is.  Chapter’s 1 through 7 needed to be completely rearranged and are much better because of it.  Things were better for a while after that, but right after my turn things got all jumbled again.  I can pinpoint the places my character took on a life of their own and where my plot line got out of order.  I am in the middle of rearranging five or so chapters so they have a more logical flow.

Logic!  Who knew writers had to be logical?


I have high hopes for the ending, but then again I thought I was clear after I struggled with the beginning of the book.

My question is…  have you ever found that you wrote out of order? If so were you able to pinpoint why?


3 comments on “Writing out of order when I thought I was following a linear plot.

  1. Elizabeth,

    Your post was a delight for me. I am a newcomer,not to writing itself which I have done since the age of 10, but to the process of working on my first novel!

    After being stricken with Bacterial Meningitis living through a coma, rehab, amputation and becoming deaf, I was thrown into writing seriously for something to do with myself. Being deaf actually made it easier to sink uninterrupted into my own little world with my characters.

    I began writing wrote as I always did – an idea came to mind and I started to put it on paper. The more I work the more I find that suddenly a chapter will finish or an idea for a new one will pop up. It is usually a chapter I have planned for in my outline but sometimes not. Often, it’s a direction my character wants to go in or something he/she wants to add.

    I am most certainly a novice with this and did not know it wasn’t a completely natural aspect of writing. The only thing I’ve ever been taught is to write and keep writing, don’t stop to edit or try to make sense of what comes out. Maybe that’s why it just comes in whatever order it wants to.

    My third chapter became Chapter One almost the second it was finished. It was way too interesting and got me into the story with a bang! Who knew??

    Now I can rest easy knowing it really IS just part of the process. Thanks for posting your concerns and comments. They were most enlightening.


  2. The other advice you received was good. That first draft is all about pumping it out there, throwing words down on a page, and exploring your characters and worlds. Finishing that first draft is the most important step. Anything can be fixed later. There is no limits on the number of drafts you do after that. There are no restrictions about how many things you can change.

    Rearranging scenes and entire chapters has certainly been part of my process and I am glad to see other doing the same thing.

    There is no “process” only a journey. You are the writer. What ever gets you from first words to final draft IS the right way. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  3. Great post Liz. Inspiring comment by Jerri as well.

    Wanted to share a tidbit about this same happening in my novel as well. I had a character that wasn’t supposed to come in until at least half way through. Now he becomes a great friend to the protagonist within the first few chapters.

    Characters can be so sneaky.

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