People often ask me whether I write my novels using a detailed outline or whether I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of gal. They are curious if I storyboard and follow sketched-out scenes for each book or do I write footloose and fancy-free, without knowing in advance what is going to happen next to my characters? Not surprisingly, many authors get asked this question. However, one question we don’t get asked that often is: “In what order do we write our stories?”
Huh? Order? What kind of question is that? It may surprise some of you to know that many screenwriters write their stories out of order and not in consecutive chapters or scenes, much in the same way that directors film a movie. Do authors do the same? I once read that Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series (as well as numerous other books), likes to write out of order. Meaning, she likes to write whatever scene is in her head at the moment, regardless of whether or not it comes next in the natural story progression. She says she then goes back later to stitch together all the disjointed scenes and fill in the missing transitions until the story is finished. I find this fascinating.
To answer the earlier question, I like to follow a detailed outline. I need to know where I’m going and what I’m trying to accomplish in each scene, as well as in the overall story. I applaud and even envy those writers who sit down everyday and write without having a clue what's going to happen. It just wouldn't work for me. But writing out of order...well, now that concept intrigues me.
Since I’ve always wanted to give it a try, I finally broke down and started to do it with my current novel-in-progress. Yep, I’m writing out of order. I still know where I’m going and what I want to accomplish, but I am finding the deviation quite liberating and invigorating. Who knew? It’s working for me.
I wonder how many of you writers out there write out of order? Am I in a tiny minority or am I finally getting with the program? If you do write out of order, do you do it regularly? Occasionally? Once in a blue moon? Inquiring minds want to know!