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Stepping Out Of Line For The First Time | Experimenting With Writing Out Of Order

If you have been keeping up with my posts, you may know that I've been having some difficulties with the newest of my writing endeavors.

Forged in the Salle, for whatever reason, has been more of a challenge than my other projects. I started the first draft in late 2019, a bit after finishing that of Against His Vows. Staying true to tradition, I started off with a handwritten draft. However, I somehow managed to lose the composition book I was using, resulting in the loss of all fourteen chapters I had written. As a result I found myself scrambling to rewrite it all digitally from memory as best I could.

As a Plantser, I tend to dive into a new story with a few scenes in mind, notably the ending and a handful of chapters leading up to that, but then have a gaping hole in the middle to fill while I'm doing the actual writing. Forged in the Salle was of no exception, but for some reason it's been more difficult to plot than others have been.

I'm sure deciding to rewrite the first fourteen chapters rather than start the electronic draft with the fifteenth and press on has made that harder because I was still focusing on the beginning rather than tackling the middle.

Once I did get through that mess, I put Forged to the Salle on the back burner so I could concentrate on editing Bound to the Heart and preparing it for beta readers.

In that time, I hadn't given it much thought, but coming back to it after so long away had me feeling like I was trying to fill an empty bucket with an eyedropper.

It wasn't that I wasn't excited to be working on it again, but I was frustrated by still not knowing what I was doing with these characters apart from what I had written in a handful of scenes that were scattered around my brain—most of which occur towards the end.

I've always been a sequential writer. I write the chapters in the order they occur because that is the way the story is told. That method has worked for three books, so I was hesitant try something new.

But Forged in the Salle was proving to be a different scenario, so I decided to switch up my routine and experiment with nonlinear writing.

Nonlinear writing is a little different than nonlinear storytelling.

Nonlinear storytelling is a form of narration in which the story is told out of order.

In linear storytelling, the events of the story are presented in order. If the story takes place over a single week, what happens on Sunday is presented before Monday, with Monday's happenings being shown second, with the story ending on Saturday.

Nonlinear storytelling is a little more flexible. Using the one-week example above in a nonlinear fashion could have the events taking place on Friday may be presented first, followed by those on Tuesday, then Saturday, with the story ending on Wednesday.

Nonlinear storytelling has its uses. It can create suspense that grips the reader's attention and refuses to let go until they get the answers they crave, and it can also challenge the reader to try and put the pieces together about why a character acted as they did or how they pulled it off. Flashbacks can help elaborate on a character's past or give the reader more insight about their world.

But what about nonlinear writing?

One of the reasons I was unsure about taking a chance on this way of writing was because of my Plantser self. Even though I find myself between Planners and Pantsers in my writing habits, the early stages of my projects have me leaning closer to those of Planners.

As mentioned above, I tend to approach my writing projects with a sense of how the story unfolds, with an outline broken down chapter by chapter. The notes on these sections will vary in depth; some lay out the events occurring within them in a few sentences, while others might be just a few words to get the point across. Writing out of order seemed unnatural to me because of that.

There have been times while I'm editing where I might add a new scene, but I personally wouldn't call this nonlinear writing because it's past the first draft and done to improve an already-existing story compared to writing a new one.

I was afraid to go against the established plan, but the fact is that this change was what really started to put those plans in motion.

After coming back to Forged in the Salle following some time off, the first chapter I wrote was the epilogue. And then I started working backwards.

This let me work on the scenes I had a clearer understanding of than forcing myself to sit and wait until I figured out what happened next.

It also let me start to figure out the middle. As I was writing what is the penultimate chapter of the story, which revolves around a showdown with the antagonist, I finally figured out his real motivations as he was essentially giving a villain monologue. This is when everything else really began to fall into place and helped me fill in the gaps leading up to that point.

Writing a story out of order, even if the story itself is told sequentially, can be of help when you're not entirely sure of what to write. If you write chapter three and don't know what happens in chapter four, but you do know exactly what happens in chapter five, skipping ahead to that point can keep things moving.

When I was writing sequentially, there were some chapters that felt like almost a chore to write. Not because they were bad, but because they weren't what I was most eager to write. There were moments where the goal was more about getting the scene done so I could move on to the next rather than writing it well.

Writing out of order lets you jump ahead and write the scenes you want to write. This makes everything flow better because it's a more enjoyable experience for the writer than having to write a scene because it happens next. It's easier to become invested in the story if you are excited about it.

This is something I had already done without realizing it. Forged in the Salle was among the first ideas I had for a story, and one I came up with several years ago.

In spite of this, I didn't start working on it right away. Instead, I wrote Against His Vows first. I had a stronger outline for this project with characters who were more developed, so writing it first made more sense. It was the project I could make more progress with.

The catch in all of this is that the two stories are like distant cousins. The events occurring towards the end of Forged in the Salle and the fallout that happens after the last page are actually what sets up one of the major conflicts of Against His Vows. This was always intended, but I never really considered it to be a form of nonlinear writing. It was more about me writing the story I knew more about. William was more fleshed out than Marcus by a longshot. I knew how Against His Vows played out well before I started writing it, whereas I'm still muddling through the middle of Forged in the Salle. Writing Against His Vows first just made more sense to me.

Kind of like how I'm writing the chapters I know more about first rather than writing them in order.

Even though it feels like I am getting more done now that I'm writing out of order for the first time, I do expect that there will be a lot of editing to be done when I reach this point. This tends to happen regardless, as writing in a linear manner will sometimes have me making notes like "allude to this sooner" or "move this scene to XYZ" as I go. But with writing out of order, I'm discovering a lot of things about the story along the way, like the aforementioned motivation of the antagonist. When I start edits, it's going to be a matter of trying to break that down and slip it into earlier scenes rather than building up to it as I would do if I were writing linearly.

I'm also not numbering chapters at this point, but instead labeling them in my notebook as "Chapter - Dinner" or "Chapter - Training Session," so it might take a while to sort through at first. I'm planning to implement a checkmark system, marking off which chapters as I type them up—which I am planning to do in order.

Looking ahead to future projects, I don't know if I'll be writing out of order after Forged in the Salle. This is the first time I've really experimented with this method and it has proven to be highly beneficial, but I don't think I would have had the same success with this if I had tried it with something like Bound to the Heart.

As is the case with so many things in writing, it depends on the specific story and the individual writer.



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