Leaping Ahead

by Rachel

Ever find yourself writing and then wanting to skip ahead to write the more exciting chapters?  Well, author Jennie Nash touches on this in her Huffington Post article, and says that beating the temptation to write ahead is actually working for her. 

My uncle, an editor and sometimes-writer, mentioned to me once that his ideal way to write a book is to write whatever comes to mind, and to jump ahead in chapters if you feel compelled to.  His reasoning was that writing should come naturally, and structuring it the way Jennie Nash does (by way of Ann Patchett) seems unnatural and forced.

I can’t say I’ve ever had enough dedication to sit down and pen a novel, so I wouldn’t know how I’d want to write it, but what method do you prefer? Starting from chapter one, or writing different chapters whenever you get struck with an idea?

20 Responses to Leaping Ahead

  1. Kristin Laughtin says:

    The first novel I finished was done by writing the parts I wanted when I wanted, then going back and writing all the scenes to join them. However, I was working off an outline, so it wasn't an issue of trying to cram together a bunch of scenes created with no logical connection or sequence in mind. It really benefited the scenes I was passionate to write, and to my surprise, I found the joining scenes weren't too difficult either. If I knew I had two awesome scenes to join, I was eager to make the bridge just as awesome.

    I tried writing my second novel sequentially, but that book was a disaster for many reasons.

    I'm working on my third now and also writing sequentially, and it seems to be going well. I'm not sure yet if this is because the scenes I want to write are near the beginning. Time will tell when I get to the scenes I anticipate less.

  2. Kim Batchelor says:

    I try to stay with the flow of the novel and make my way toward the chapters that I'm most looking forward to writing. My philosophy is that if I don't pay as much attention to the process of getting to that anticipated chapter then I might as well write a short story because the build-up in a novel is as important as the emotional/sexy/exciting parts.

  3. Ariana Richards says:

    I've done both…because to me the exciting scenes always call to me first. But I've never finished one of the novels where I wrote the exciting/vivid scenes first, because then there was no reason for me to go back and put the filler/bridgework in. I've found it's tempting to skip around, but easier/more efficient in the end to write it start to finish and get it all on paper at once.

  4. kerrygans says:

    I try to follow my outline, mostly because my outlines tend to be quite sketchy and I need the characters to tell me how they are going to get from point A to point B! However, if there is a scene that is vivid in my head, that won't leave me alone, I will jump ahead and write it. Sometimes I end up not using it, and very often I need to change things in it by the time I get to where it belongs, but I never look a gift-muse in the mouth. When the inspiration is there, I jump on it!

  5. Christi Goddard says:

    I write in a linear fashion. I might jot a note down about a plot turn or a bit of dialogue, but I write sequentially. And, I'm a pantser. No outlines. It works for me. I'm on my fourth book this year :-)

  6. Pamela DuMond, D.C. says:

    Hi Rachel!

    I wrote my first novel, sequentially. Second WIP, sequentially. Then I took a class called, 'How Movies Work – The Storymaker.' That just blew everything wide open. I felt inspired to skip around in my new novel's world, and write what I was passionate about in the moment. Let's see how it turns out! Thanks for the topic.

  7. Suzi McGowen says:

    I write from exciting scene to exciting scene. (But I lean heavily on outlines, otherwise the scene might not fit when I get back around to it.)

    I also hate writing boring bridge scenes. I finally realized that if they're boring for me to write, they'll be boring for readers to read, so I try to find a way to make them more interesting. Once they're interesting, they're easier to write!

  8. Meagan Spooner says:

    I definitely write in order. For me, part of the fun of writing is similar to the fun of reading–I want to turn the page, experience what happens next. The juicy scenes are my reward for writing the less juicy ones–if I wrote all my favorite scenes out of order, I'm not sure I'd have the same drive to write the bridging scenes.

  9. Laura Maylene says:

    I tend to write straight from the beginning to the end. But I don't — and can't — plan the plot out in detail first like Patchett does. I need to find the story and the end as I write.

    But I also think if a writer is compelled to write a different part/scene and is too excited to wait to get to that point, they should absolutely write that part first. Nothing bad comes from being eager to write a scene you're really really excited about.

  10. Kaitlyne says:

    I don't get anything done if I skip around. One of the big motivators to get me through the harder parts is knowing I've got some really great, fun ones coming up that I can look forward to.

    I will admit to writing out notes and dialogues in advance so I don't forget the good stuff.

  11. Jennifer Schubert says:

    This is a great topic and good thoughts by Nash and Patchett. Thanks, Rachel! I write in sequence. If I don't, I find that the characters lose emotional momentum. (I'm also a non-outliner.)

  12. Sara says:

    I have tried to write linearly and can't. I write whatever scene wants to be written. Then I write bridges and connect them as I know where they go in the story. I even write some parts backwards.

    Of course I usually don't have a plot or outline when I start either. Just a character who needs to be heard.


  13. Judi Rohrig says:

    Clearly, what works works. I've always called what I do "chunk writing." But I've never had any difficulties bridging the sections together. This hasn't proven to lessen the thrill I get from being an active participant (reader seeking to be entertained). In fact, I think it makes it more exciting. In my first book, my main characters were being put through bloody hell, which made that later chapter the carrot for them. "See, things get better, dears," I reminded them. Ah, the creative mind at work! How do non-writers make it through life?

  14. glasseye says:

    For me, the most difficult part is the first draft. I don't know the characters. I feel shy. To get around this, I view the first draft as a skeleton. I don't get in too deep. I put the plot together at this stage and write the bones of the story from beginning to end.

    When that part is finished, I can go back and begin riff-writing scenes that put flesh on the bones. It's easier once I know who these people are and where they're going. This is where I work on pacing and arcs. It's also my favorite part. The quiet, reflective moments are like chocolate truffles to me. I save them and make myself wait to write them, so I'll always have something to look forward to.

  15. Charlie says:

    I jumped around a lot with one book. I never finished it.

    I prefer to go from start to finish, in that order.

  16. Hi I'm Jennie! says:

    Thanks so much for mentioning my Huffington Post column, The Making of a Novel. I'm glad you found it interesting. I'd be happy to guest blog for you should you need it — or to run something by you over at HuffPo. You can reach me at jennie.nash@verizon.net. Cheers!

  17. Teri says:

    Thanks for the post. I have to agree with your uncle — I write what's bugging me, prodding me, firing me up, first. This is how I figure out what my story is really about. Then I go back and put it all together like a big jigsaw puzzle and fill in the blanks.

  18. Liz Hollar says:

    I start at the beginning, but will happily jump ahead to the more interesting parts (and avoid the harder parts that are less clear to me). I do have to go back periodically to re-outline. Thanks for the post. It's nice to see how everyone drafts differently!

  19. Kendra says:

    I made the switch from chunk writer to linear writer, and I'm never looking back! Writing before was a slog, and the relief of knowing where I'm going with a story and what comes next is immense. I'm really enjoying the writing now.

    I think, though, that linear is working better for me because plot is one of my weak points. I did not work off an outline as a chunk writer – if I had, perhaps it would have worked better. At any rate, making the switch, and having the entire plot sketched out beforehand, has been a major and good change in how I approach the craft of writing a novel.

  20. SWK says:

    For me, I need the discipline of working start-to-finish or I'd never get to the end. That's not to say I don't cheat along the lines of making some notes for future chapters. Still, for me the way to write a novel is to get one chapter on the page, then ask myself "What happens next" over and over and over until I can write "the end"!

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