Should you ever write scenes out of order? Here you are, ready to start in on a new story, and you have one particular scene just begging to be written. Maybe it’s the scene that inspired the story, or maybe it’s just as easier scene than the one you’re currently faced with. If you go ahead and write that scene now, will it harm your overall story? Or, just maybe, will taking a non-linear storytelling approach offer untold benefits?
The answers to these questions aren’t absolute. Ultimately, your personality, writing style, and even each individual story will determine what works best for you. As a decidedly linear storyteller (and an outliner on top of it), I’ve only rarely written a scene out of order—and, even then, only when I’ve realized I needed to go back and insert a scene into previously written chapters.
Most writers follow that same path. Linear writing just makes sense. It creates a forward-moving expansion of time, just like our own lives. But some writers find writing scenes out of order actually frees their creativity. So what should you do? Let’s explore some of the benefits to both linear and non-linear writing, so you can decide for yourself.
Five Reasons to Write Your Scenes in Order
1. You’ll be able to maintain natural evolution and continuity.
When we write stories in their natural order, we’re able to organically build their arcs. Each piece fits together, because each piece builds upon the previous one without any unnecessary finagling.
2. You won’t waste time on unnecessary scenes.
Sometimes those killer scenes we envision early on end up not working out like we think they will. We can save ourselves time (and the heartache of killing some darlings) if we can spot extraneous or incorrect scenes before we write them.
3. You won’t lose steam on the less interesting scenes.
If you run ahead of yourself and write all the juicy scenes, what are you going to have to look forward to as you slog through the necessary transitions that remain?
4. You’ll be able to better track your overall story.
If your scenes are all hither and yon, you’ll likely have a harder time keeping track of where they fit within the overall plan. But if you write them in order, you can watch your story arc build naturally—and better spot areas that aren’t quite working.
5. You can avoid ending up with a bunch of brilliant pieces that don’t fit together.
All those wonderful scenes you’re in hurry to write may indeed be brilliant in their own right. But, by the time you’re finished, they may not fit together quite as seamlessly as you were hoping.
6. You’ll remember scene ideas.
Our memories can be slippery little devils. Sometimes the only way to make certain we’ll remember a scene in all its white-hot glory is to go ahead and write it down, even if it doesn’t yet fit into the linear scheme things.
How do you write your novel? Let me know in the comments below!