Writing Scenes Out of Sequence

I’d never done it before—written out of chronological order—except during revision. But after a discussion at Critique Group a few years back, I decided to give it a try.  Kissing Shakespeare was my work-in-progress at the time, so I wrote dozens of scenes as they sprang to mind, slotting them in later. And yes, I did write lots of scenes that never made it into the final version, but overall, I figured the extra writing helped me delve deeper into my characters and story.

In her session, “From Here to There: Alternatives to Outlining,” presented at last year’s Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Carol Berg advised us to “plan critical scenes first.”  Think about it. While the story is rolling around in your subconscious, isn’t it the critical, or pivotal, scenes you’re thinking about? So why not write one or more of them? Like the rest of the manuscript, these scenes will evolve, so where’s the harm in writing them as they occur to you?

Sometimes there’s a scene you know you have to make room for, but you’re not sure where, exactly, it fits. But that scene needs to happen. I occasionally find myself paralyzed by this—the not knowing. I find if I write the scene as a separate entity, its location in the story usually becomes obvious. For some reason, the pressure is less when you’re not worrying about the work as a whole.

As I see it, then, there are three ways writing scenes out of sequence works: 1) Pivotal scenes may be written as they come to mind, without worrying where they’ll fit until later; 2) Other, less significant, scenes may be written separately and slotted in as needed, again without the pressure–at that point–of where they belong; 3) And of course, in revising your manuscript. During revision, you may be just as likely to remove a few, though.

Here are links to a few articles/blog posts various authors have to say on the subject:




Everyone’s writing process is different. What works best for you?

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