Why I Love Writing Out of Order

Who’s ready for spring?

I know I am. It may not officially be here yet, but as of the end of the school day, spring break is! I’m so ready.

As a result, my March newsletter is out a few days early. In addition to the writing topic here, it also includes a sneak peek at the draft of the My Second Impression of You book club kit, a recipe, and a Women’s History Month book recommendation. I hope you’ll check it out and subscribe.

On to the writing topic. Does that title scare you? Are you a writer who starts at the beginning and writes straight through to “The End”? If so, you’d probably be quite appalled by that time I wrote a book in reverse, but let me explain why I love writing out of order.

First I’m going to back up and tell you why I decided to talk about this in the first place. When I participated in World Read Aloud Day back in February, I received a number of great questions from students. I wrote them all down and have been answering them on TikTok.

One of the great questions I received was:

How do you avoid writer’s block? Or, what do you do when you get stuck?

I drilled this answer down to three things:

  1. An outline
  2. Daily word count goal
  3. Stopping as soon as I reach that goal for the day

The reason I love outlining is because if I do get stuck in a particular scene, I can jump ahead to a different part of the book and start writing. I do this ALL THE TIME.

It was key to how I drafted My Second Impression of You. I think I probably did start at the very beginning of the story, but I know that I jumped forward to the Best Day scenes in order to figure out exactly how all of that would go wrong for her, then came back to the scenes leading up to them. I often had two scenes open in Scrivener at the same time, so I could go back and forth between Maggie’s worst-case and best-day scenarios for contrast. My first draft for that book was really long, but it was there. That’s all I cared about.

I’m doing something similar with my current work in progress, which will tentatively have three parts. I don’t have as full of an outline for this book as I usually do (see my post about avoiding writing ruts), but I have loose scenes planned for each section. When I began drafting this book, I actually started with Part 2, went back to Part 1, and have been alternating between the two depending on what I feel like writing each day. Then, last week I had a breakthrough in how I anticipated executing Part 3 and started working on that before jumping back to the earlier sections. I’m now up to 60,000 words! As with MSIOY, I know this first draft will be long, but it will exist, and then I can get rid of anything extra I wrote because I was skipping around.

I realize the idea of writing out of order may sound terrifying to some writers–that you might feel bound to write your story chronologically. But here are a few benefits I see to writing out of order:

  1. You are less likely to load backstory into the opening chapters
  2. If you write later scenes first, you will know what foreshadowing/clues are necessary in earlier scenes
  3. As already mentioned, you always have somewhere else to start writing if you’re stuck

While I do like to outline, I don’t think you must have an outline to write out of order. Do you just generally know where your story is going?

  • If you’re writing romance and you get stuck, write the first kiss scene–or even the climax, when they finally get together. That may help you figure out how they get there.
  • If you’re writing a mystery and you get stuck, write the scene where they solve it all.
  • If you’re writing a horror and you get stuck, write the scene where they catch the killer (or I guess where they die 😱).
  • If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, write the final battle or end to the quest.

Guess what? If you write something you don’t want to keep later, you can change it!

But hey, maybe you don’t need this kind of trick and you can happily write from beginning to end. If you try this for the first time, let me know how it works for you!

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