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Book Writing: The Tyranny of Chronology

 

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Are you a Write in Order Writer, or an Anything, Anytime Writer?

The Write in Order Writer insists on writing scenes in strict chronology.

The Anything, Anytime Writer writes whatever part of the novel she feels like without regard to order.

All my life, I've been a Write in Order Writer.  And this is not necessarily a good thing.  Because hewing to a strict chronology as you write can become tyrannical.  (For the record, that's a great word.)

As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm working on a new novel.  The path to get here has been fraught with false starts and stories that petered out, but finally I have a main character I love and a story that has legs.

But, here's the deal: every novel that you write comes out differently.  I've had to come to grips with this.  My last novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior (the one I'm currently shopping), came all in a glorious rush.  Emma Jean was unstoppable.  It was amazing and wonderful and thrilling.  I wrote the first draft from beginning to end in a couple of months.

Now comes this novel (it doesn't have a name yet).  I've been saying to myself and anyone who would listen this: it is coming slowly.  And it has been.  I've been saying that with gratitude that it is coming at all, but I also have realized that since the mind directs everything I need to change those statements.  My new one is: my novel is coming fast.

And one of the reasons that it is going to start coming faster is because I'm turning into an Anything, Anytime Writer.  In order to make forward progress and let this novel flow the way it wants to (those being the operative words here) I've had to let go of chronology. 

As we say in my family, cary, cary.  (Translation: scary, scary.)

Just yesterday I wrote the end of Chapter Three before I finished a scene in the middle.  That may not sound like much to those of Anything, Anytime Writers, but to me, a dedicated Write in Order Writer, it was huge.

Cary, cary.  And also liberating.  I hope I can do more of it. 

So let's look at advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages to working in chronology.

  • You can keep track of the flow of the story.
  • It is easier to consider cause and effect.
  • Character arcs are more easily seen.
  • You won't get confused

Disadvantages to working in chronology.

  • Writing whatever scene catches your fancy is freeing as all hell.
  • By allowing yourself to write what you want, you won't get blocked.
  • You may get a deeper understanding of character.
  • The writing may flow more easily.
  • You'll get the momentum rolling.

Okay, so the Anything, Anytime Writers win, at least in the above breakdown. I'm probably missing a few points, so feel free to fill them in. 

And, do tell: what about you? What kind of writer are you?  What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages?

CREATE A SUCCESSFUL, INSPIRED WRITING LIFE: Try something different.  If you are a Write in Order Writer, try writing a scene out of chronology.  If you are a Anything, Anytime Writer, try writing a few scenes in order.  Which works best?

 

Photo by a2gemma.

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