Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Connect The Dots

or The Beauty of Writing out of Order . . .

Oh, it’s messy, I’ll grant you that. And after about 75 pages, you begin to feel like you’re floundering. At that point, I usually give in and print out what I have so I can get my arms around it. (Is there anyone else who finds they cannot edit effectively on the computer screen?)

Then the the magic part happens. As I’m reading back over those out of order scenes that are now arranged in as close to chronological order as I can guess, suddenly connections become clear, transitions from one scene to the next, self explanatory. All of a sudden it is clear what the heroine’s thoughts need to be between point A and and point B. It's like all the spaces between the written scenes begin to fill up with just the right words.

It reminds me a lot of those dot to dot drawings we used to do when we were kids. But how can I know what direction to draw the line if I don’t know where the blinkin’ dot is! Well, these scenes I’ve written out of order are my dots, and now that I have them laid out, I can see what has to happen in between those dots and I know what to do with the line between them.

The thing is, if scenes are coming to you out of order, it’s usually because there is something compelling, vital, and dramatic about them. Something really important to the story will be revealed there. It's like having your story's fortune told. :-) Okay, maybe not. But try it some time, just for an exercise, if nothing else. I firmly believe our muses thrive on the new and unexpected.

Also, I wanted to let you all know we'll be having another drawing this month. I thought this time I'd give away a copy of Orson Scott Card's book, Characters and Viewpoint, since I've talked so much about it. (And if you already have that, I'll send you something else!) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment some time this month!


Katy Cooper said...

Characters and Viewpoint is a fabulous book -- I'm fairly sure it changed my writing life. To the degree I write strong, vivid secondary characters, I owe it to that book. (No, really.)

Because of your example, I'm learning to trust the insistent impulse that says, clutching my arm and refusing to let go, "No, no, really, you have to write this scene now. No, really. This one, from the second half. Right it now. Now, now, now. nowwww."

PJ Hoover said...

I've been wanting that book! Please enter me!

I'm like 10 pages into something new, so nowhere near the 75 pages you mention yet. But ack! I'm feeling a bit floundery (is that a word). Time to take a step back and think for a couple evenings.

6th Grade Teacher said...

One question, does it work with teachers trying to teach a class of middle schoolers? On an unrelated subject, is there going to be a third Theodosia book? I can't seem to find out.

Robin L said...

Katy, SO glad you're trusting that impulse. And I've seen some of the scenes, so I know it's working! :-) I'm fully convinced that demanding scenes (as in write me now) equal compelling scenes.

PJ, consider yourself entered! And happy floundering. :-)

Dear Sixth Grade Teacher, not so sure how it would work with a class of middle schoolers.;-0 As for your second question, however, I most definitely have the answer to that one. Yes, there is a third Theodosia, THEODOSIA AND THE EYES OF HORUS, which will be out early in 2010.

Thanks for stopping by!

Aspiring Author said...

I'd love to have that book! I couldn't find it in my library or Barnes & Nobles.

On writing; I've really loved your blog Robin. Whenever I've been stuck, I come here.
Recently, I don't know what the devil my character's been doing! I've ignored the scenes that popped in my head in a grim determination to go in chronological order.
So thanks a million for this post. I'll try to connect the dots!

Robin L said...

Consider yourself entered, Aspiring Author! I'm so glad you're going to allow yourself to try writing out of order. The less often we have to apply grim determination to the writing process, the better!