Friday, June 19, 2009

Writing chronologically your thing, or being bold with back-insertions?

I understand that movies are shot out of sequence, perhaps not all, but definitely some. I have no idea why this happens, other than obvious things. Outside shooting would require the right weather; the actor needs to lose weight within the film (Cast Away's ending was shot at the beginning - it was easier for Tom Hanks to get really thin before the start of production, then take time off to bulk up for the early scenes); the director's preference; and other reasons beyond my knowledge.

It must be one of the greatest challenges of movie acting (other than the boring time sitting around between takes) with things so disjointed and each day's shooting unrelated to that of the day before. I really admire film editors, too, who give us the final product.

In Belle's blog recently, she expressed her dislike of writing out of sequence, the disjointedness of it. I'd never considered my feelings on it, but I've always done it. Long after I've completed chapters, an idea will pop up that simply has to be expressed in Chapter 2, or an event in Chapter 20 needs a reference to it in Chapter 10. In fact, I write about a quarter of the book, I'm guessing, out of sequence. I've inserted great chunks of dialogue into beginning sections, because I suddenly want to introduce some new event now, in this later piece of writing, and it needs an earlier clue. I imagine that all mystery writers must do this.

In a way, it's the opposite of revision, where we must remove irrelevant passages (despite how damned good they are). Just as I take out brilliantly conceived paragraphs, or even whole pages, I also need to insert things.

I'm surprised that writers would have a different take on this; I assumed everyone worked the way I do. I guess it could be perceived as scattered thinking, but life is scattered, when you think about it. We go along day-to-day, and things from our past unexpectedly come rushing in at us; events long-gone now intrude; memories temporarily blot out our present; a casual conversation reveals an unknown snippet of history that totally changes our view of someone or something. So it is with my writing.

In fact, during the writing process - not the "ass applied to the seat" work, but the internal writing, while I'm doing housework, walking, whatever - I am rarely thinking about the future content, other than the basic plot outline. I'm analyzing what's happened previously. Did he really say that in the right tone? Would she have done this willingly? Should she have spoken to him first, before acting on it?

Whatever method we use, it makes no difference to the final outcome, as long as we're enjoying the writing process - all of it. I don't like to hear that people are agonizing over their work. Of course it's brain-taxing, and often emotionally-draining, but it should always be a joy. It's temporarily painful to remove some of your brilliant words during revision, but I believe there should be nothing but love involved in adding to the original work. No tortured writer here.

A rather chicken-pecking word count yesterday - just 1600 words. They resented being put on the page, but are thankfully satisfying to read. It happens sometimes, doesn't it? The little writing muse tells us to back off a bit, take it easy. But I prefer Tally-ho! writing, the Boadicea approach. I have a feeling it will be back this weekend.

No changes to my stats this week. Still 9 Pending, 1 Partial, 1 Full, 10 No Response, 12 Rejections, for a total of 33 queries for Hafan Deg, my orphan in agent-land.

Have a good weekend, and - if you're lucky enough to have him in your life - show Dad you love him.



Suzanne said...

I always skip around! In fact, I was at a writers conference yesterday where the Novelist Alex Chee told us of a method where one of his friends writes each scene on an index card and then shuffles them to see if they work in any interesting and unusual ways. I wouldn't be able to finish a book if I wrote it chapter by chapter. I have to write the moments that "happen" in my head and then go back and tie it up. Great post Fran!

Melissa Marsh said...

I always write in chronological order. Now, if I find that I have to insert another scene into a part I've already written, I'll go back and do that. But I can't write the end and then go and write the beginning, or write chunks of the middle and then write the beginning or whatever. It has to go from start of the book to end of the book.

So yes, I write my book from chapter to chapter. If I don' It just doesn't work. It gets my brain all out of sorts and I feel lost.

Fran said...

So Suzanne skips around, Melissa likes the forward march, and I take two steps forward and one step back. Alex Chee's friend shuffles scene index cards and waits to see how they land! We are all so different!

GutsyWriter said...

Since I kept a journal in Belize, and I'm writing a memoir, I tend to write in chronological order too. I can see how when a scene pops into your mind, you just need to get it down and then think about where it might fit later.

Johanna said...

It seems my pesky characters just aren't completely forthcoming all the time...often they don't reveal their most interesting tid bits right up front!

I'm definitely an out of sequence gal!

Fun post!