Writing Chronologically Vs. Writing Out of Order

You’re writing your first draft, and all of a sudden you find yourself at a road block. You just don’t feel inspired by the scene you’re trying to crank out. Soon, your mind starts wandering. You find yourself longing to write a scene that doesn’t happen until further down the road.

What do you do? Do you skip ahead to that more exciting scene? Or do you stick to the scene you’re writing?

There are costs and benefits to each, and it depends on what your writing style is like and what works for you.

Reasons to Write Chronologically

  • You won’t get confused about the order of scenes. If you don’t write chronologically, you might not know how to piece together all the random scenes you’ve written.
  • You get to experience the progression of the story and characters. If you’re writing in order, you get to experience firsthand how the story unfolds. You’ll live through the plot at the same rate as your characters––and therefore, you might have a better understanding of how your characters develop over time. This might also help you avoid continuity errors.
  • You can use exciting scenes as rewards/motivation for getting through the scenes in between. If you write all the most exciting scenes at once, what is there to look forward to? It may be hard to get through the slower scenes––but it helps to know that if you get through those scenes, you have something more exciting to write later!

Reasons to Write Out of Order

  • It could help you get unstuck. If writer’s block is absolutely killing your motivation, trying a new scene might help you get your mojo back.
  • You might end up writing fewer unnecessary scenes. After you’ve written the scenes you’re most excited about, you might discover you need less filler between them than you might have written otherwise.
  • If you have a brilliant scene planned out, it might help to write it down before you forget it. Ah, forgetting what you were going to write: it’s happens to the best of us. Every writer hates that feeling. So if you have a thrilling scene in mind that you don’t want to forget, it might help you to write it down before you lose it. If it ends up having continuity errors in it, you can always go back and fix it.

 

As you can see, there are compelling arguments for both. I started a conversation about this topic on Twitter, and I got a bunch of interesting and varied responses! I love hearing about everyone’s writing process and what works for them.

How about you guys? Do you prefer to write your scenes chronologically or out of order?

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9 thoughts on “Writing Chronologically Vs. Writing Out of Order

  1. I personally don’t write them in order, until I know the story idea I’m writing has potential to become a full length novel. I definitely agree with the 3rd point. I am VERY forgetful. I definite write down awesome scenes on the computer or in a notebook so I don’t forget them because I totally will if I am forced to write chronologically. I also tend to create multiple documents, one with sketches and scene bits and random notes and research, and then another actual draft where scenes are placed in order. It’s true, the continuity thing is a problem and so you have to be much more aware while you’re writing. I learned this the hard way of course. This is why outlines are helpful AND I also create character descriptions elsewhere (in that random sketch doc I mentioned) so that I can go back and recall, oh yeah, what that character looks like. But continuity is tricky regardless of whether you write in order or not, especially if your book is very long.
    Thanks for the insight on both sides 🙂

    1. Good points! I imagine it’s much easier to write out of order if you have some kind of outline to guide you. And you’re right, it’s hard to avoid continuity problems regardless of what order you write in––I make those mistakes all the time, and I always write things chronologically. 😀

  2. I write sort of chronologically because I tend to bring together disparate characters from varying locations.
    Chronological works for me, because on starting out there is only this hazy notion of where the story is going (Probably not the best plan- but glitches can be sorted out during the re-writes etc)

  3. I write in order. This may not apply to other writers’ work, but I’ve noticed that when I don’t want to write a scene, maybe it doesn’t need to be written at all. Perhaps it’s not compelling enough. I’ve covered with a few lines of connecting narration and gotten by that way. And I’ve written scenes that weren’t strong enough and had to cut them later.

    Just in case this applies to anyone else. 🙂

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