Shannon Stacey

Page 1, page 2, page 185, page 34

Emma talked about writing out of order yesterday. She can’t do it, and neither can Alison.

I can’t write in order. I get bored. I get very uninspired. To me, it’s like going to a carnival and riding each ride in turn in a polite and orderly fashion. I want to run around that carnival like a madwoman, hitting the best rides first. Then, when I’ve ridden them all until I want to throw up, I’ll use up my leftover tickets on the smaller, less thrilling rides.

I write the scene that inspires me at that moment. I can see the entire book in my head—yes, like a movie. It’s all there. (It’s the getting it from the visual to the written word that’s hard.) If I’m out and about, a line of dialogue or a flash of understanding or a song on the radio or anything will pop into my head, and I have to write that scene. If the black moment is screaming in my head, how the hell do I sit and force out the next sentence in chapter 3? Sometimes I’ll switch scenes depending on what’s hot for the muse. It’s not uncommon for me to upload my Alphie take for the previous day and find 20 pages from 3 different chapters.

Does it add to my revisions? Maybe. But my first draft is always utter crap anyway. But what if my hero reveals some great surprise toward the end of the book? Well, there’s a good chance half the beginning and middle are still yet to be written. So I fix what I’ve got and have that in mind as I write the rest. Tinkering with the story and character arcs are easier for me than facing a straight line from start to finish.

There are drawbacks, of course. One of the most torturous parts of my writing method is bridging the gaps between all those scenes. Maybe that’s why I write short and my pacing’s been criticized in the past for being too fast. I probably skew the scene & sequel rhythm.

It also makes it almost impossible to work with a critique partner. “Here, have 5 pages from 4 different scenes in 2 separate chapters! How’s my arc?”

But that’s the only way I can get the story on paper. I can’t even imagine starting on page 1 and working in a straight line to page 320. Honestly, most of the time I wish I could do that. It’s probably faster, and there has to be less blending involved. But I can’t do it.

13 comments to “Page 1, page 2, page 185, page 34”

  1. Jill
      · May 18th, 2005 at 10:06 am · Link

    This was a timely post for me. I’ve written a few dozen books (yikes) and have always written from page one to the end. Until this last book, The Book That Nearly Killed Me. For some reason I had to write it out of order. I couldn’t write the middle until I’d written the end. I couldn’t write the against the wall love scene early on until I’d written the later more tender one. It hurt my brain, but there it is. I hope I don’t have to do that again, but now I know I can if I have to.

  2. Alison
      · May 18th, 2005 at 10:22 am · Link

    I’m beginning to think it has a lot to do with writing a draft that requires a lot of revisions anyway, and not writing a draft but writing finished product. But there’s an even bigger part that’s all about our brain functions! I’m a linear thinker when it comes to everything. The dh will start a movie or tv show in the middle if needs be. I won’t. I have to see it from frame one or I can’t process what’s happening.

    I have written a few scenes out of order in the past, and the blending literally kills me. There’s so much I didn’t know about my people when I wrote it that I’ve learned in the meantime that I have to edit it to death to make even what they say in conversation fit!! My black moment would never occur to me early on because I don’t know it until I’ve discovered my characters emotional journey by writing it. Very interesting subject!!

  3. Charlene T
      · May 18th, 2005 at 11:37 am · Link

    I write out of order, but it doesn’t bother me to bridge the gaps. What sometimes hurts my poor little brain is trying to figure what order things go in! :roll:

  4. Shannon
      · May 18th, 2005 at 5:12 pm · Link

    I’m beginning to think it has a lot to do with writing a draft that requires a lot of revisions anyway, and not writing a draft but writing finished product.

    That probably has a lot to do with it. The things you do as you write—searching for the right word, voice, rhythm, etc—I do when the first draft’s done. I can’t move forward otherwise. I get so hung up on finding that right word, or does this sound right, or whatever, that I can’t get past it and writer’s block settles in. A friend of mine calls it “puckering” (which didn’t crack me up quite as much when I was working on rom susp as it does now) and was forever telling me to “quitcher puckering’.

    Oh, but if I miss the first five minutes of a show or movie, I’m done. Unless it’s a show I’m truly addicted to, I won’t watch it. And if I haven’t seen the movie before, I absolutely won’t start watching it once it’s started.

    How strange, Jill, that you had a book like that! I wonder why it demanded to be written that way. Just to keep you on your toes, maybe? :cheesy:

    The vampire book is the first one where I’ve had some trouble figuring out where scenes go in the timeline. But only during the creation of “the movie”. Once that’s done, which is usually before I even start to write, I have a pretty good idea of where everything lies, which is why I probably don’t struggle with arc continuity too much.

    But those transitions…:baby:

  5. Mel
      · May 18th, 2005 at 5:31 pm · Link

    See, and Shan I had you pegged for a perfectly in order kinda person. Who knew?

    Mostly I write in order, often having puckering moments (So that’s what they’re called!)

    I wrote Brand Name Dates by writing a bunch of scenes, then playing connect the dots. It ran 100K, so Shan, it’s not the excuse for you writing short, fast stories….:doh:

    Write… there’s no wrong way… but yeah, hell on the CP! :noevil:

  6. Daria
      · May 18th, 2005 at 6:07 pm · Link

    I often write out of order, though I usually play within the first 10k, then within the next 10k, etc–not jumping all over the thing–and I don’t have the need to rewrite extensively… not often, at least. Somehow, it all works out at the end :)

    I write my technical writing projects out of order. I wrote my thesis out of order, too :rofl:

  7. Jaci
      · May 18th, 2005 at 6:15 pm · Link

    Ugh. I”m with Alison. I gotta work in an orderly fashion from beginning to end. Sucks sometimes, but anything else will melt my brain cells and it won’t be pretty.


  8. Gina
      · May 18th, 2005 at 7:04 pm · Link

    I’m another that writes things out of order. The same will happen to me. A scene, description, or a line of dialogue will pop into my head, and I’ll want to write that scene right now. Not three chapters from now. Makes things interesting I think.

  9. Meljean
      · May 18th, 2005 at 7:25 pm · Link

    I’m an in-order gal as well. I might hop to another scene and write it bare-bones if I *absolutely* have to, but most of the time I’ll just make notes about it and keep on going from wherever I’m at.

    I’m also more likely to go backwards and fix/add to something I’ve already written. I guess that is out of order, but I think of it more as revising so that, wherever I’m at, I can go forward with all of the stuff in place where it should be.

  10. Anna Lucia
      · May 19th, 2005 at 3:08 am · Link

    Isn’t it strange how we can write the same, but different.

    I write out of order, too. But I’d sell my teeth to be able to ‘see’ the whole book at once. I can’t even hold the whole thing in my head when it’s done! :shrug:

    But I don’t generally have to go back and put in stuff the the H revealed at the end – because when I look, it’s already there. Even though I didn’t know about it before he revealed it.

    I try hard not to think about that too much… :shock:

    Of course, this whole system falls apart when I’ve had to take a break in the middle of the book. Then I’ve ‘lost my place’ in some way, and I have to plan my little socks off to get back into the story. The scary result is pictured on my blog… :write:

  11. Larissa
      · May 19th, 2005 at 9:59 am · Link

    I’m MOSTLY in order, but every once in a while if I have a scene that’s burning in my mind, I can write it out of order and tuck it away for later. :thumb:

  12. Holly Lisle
      · May 19th, 2005 at 1:47 pm · Link

    I have to write in order, too. However, I’ve made a pledge to only ride the big, cool, exciting, scary rides, and just skip all the polite stuff. Makes the books much more fun to work on.

  13. Shannon
      · May 19th, 2005 at 1:53 pm · Link

    I think a contest judge convinced me I have to ride the little rides, too. I got dinged hard for not having sequels, but just scene after scene. (I know, I know. Contest judges, grain of salt and all that.) Apparently going from the Scrambler to the Screamer to the roller coaster didn’t leave my characters time to rest and refocus on their issues.

    I do know better than to let contest judges screw with my head. Really, I do.

    Go, Anna! :cheer:

    It’s so cool seeing how everybody works! :dance:

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