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Method Madness or Writing Out of Order

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Since fiction writing is in so many ways a random process—who knows what might occur to you, or what that thought will give birth to down the road—here is, quite inadvertently, my second, consecutive posting on the 24th of the month.


So far, with my current project, I frequently find myself deviating from my habit of writing in linear fashion. (By linear, I mean writing about events in chronological order, and also writing the chapters in sequence: one, then two, then three.) I’m not writing like that at all!


This time around, I began with what I thought was Chapter One (which has morphed into Chapter Two) and set down the skeleton of a few chapters… but then I felt stuck (perhaps also because it was the dark, cold winter). One day I decided, “Hey, I have an idea for a scene that probably goes in the middle of the book somewhere—I’ll just write that.” And a few writing sessions later, I thought, “Hey, now I’m thinking of something that goes shortly before that scene in the middle.” Soon I had several “clotheslines” hanging in my brain with different pieces of the book pinned to various ones, to use an analogy for her writing process made by author Jill Lepore in a recent podcast.


Another different, and seemingly chaotic, way I’ve been working is by utilizing some of the myriad slips of ideas that I always amass before, and during, a writing project. I always saw relying on these as a trap. I told myself that the process of creating them had tucked their

elements in my brain somewhere; thus, many of them would be put to use without my consulting them. It is no surprise that a lot of them are duplicates. I never wanted to feel weighed down by them because the writing process is best when fluid. I didn’t think it was a good idea to create a book by patching ideas together.


But this time around, I allow myself to look at the “slips” when I come to a lull, and use them as prompts. Sometimes I find I can incorporate the actual idea or verbal exchange scribbled on the piece of paper immediately; sometimes it leads me to a new idea or scene. Whatever, this strategy keeps me writing when I’m stymied, and that’s what it’s all about.

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