Monday, March 07, 2011

Order, Order

What I'm reading: Worth Dying For, by Lee Child

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In conjunction with Read an eBook week, which runs from March 6-12, I'm offering WHEN DANGER CALLS for FREE at Smashwords. Use coupon code RE100. And don't forget to check out my March contest--an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES, the sequel to WHEN DANGER CALLS, could be yours.

Why I will never write out of order again.

If you've been following my posts, you'll know I've been working on edits for my WIP. This one is kind of a departure, because for the first time, I've given my villain a POV. Although this slides it across the mystery boundary into "suspense" territory, it seemed a given. The heroine is running from an abusive husband. She's got something he wants. Stands to reason he's going to be looking for her. There's nothing "secret" about who he is, and allowing him a few POV scenes can ratchet the tension.

Now, when I started writing (non-plotter, remember?) I didn't know I was going to bring Victor into the book at all, much less as a POV character. But about 5 chapters in, I hit a wall and letting him have his say seemed a way through it.

Side note: A lot of times, it helps to write something, even though it won't end up in the book. You need to get in touch with your characters, and this can help. The late Barbara Parker suggested this to me when we were talking about my early draft of Finding Sarah. I told her I'd been playing around with a short story based on Sarah's history with her husband before he died. She encouraged me—quite enthusiastically—to pursue it, saying that once I "knew" how Sarah felt, it would come through in the rest of the book. So don't shy away from writing—it falls under that "you can't fix a blank page" dictum.



Okay, so I found discovering more about what made Victor tick helped me. A side benefit was that he was fun to write. I'd never been inside the head of one of my nasties before.

Fast-forward to more writing. Now that I'd established Victor's call to action, I (obviously) needed more than one chapter/scene showing his progress. But I was writing them when I'd get stuck with my hero and heroine, or while I was researching something and had to wait for the answers. In short, Victor's scenes were written when I felt like writing them. My naïve assumption was that when I finished the book, I'd go back and weave them in where they belonged.

Ha! First, in my editing process, I simply pulled Victor's pages aside. I noted the plot points as I did with all my other chapters and duly noted them on my Post-Its. But in reading the chapters, I discovered I couldn't keep the overall book chronology intact by simply slipping a chapter where it should fit. Victor was doing things in his chapters that covered far too much time, even given the short overall timeframe of a romantic suspense.

My solution? I took a different colored Post-It pad and went back to my "idea board" system. I wrote down everything that had to happen—basically, plot points, since technically, I'd already written these scenes.

Next, I went to my tracking board, where I'd dutifully been affixing my scene summaries, and figured out where each of the things Victor was doing would fit into the chronology. Likewise, I had to consider when a lot of the information would best be revealed. If Victor is hiring a PI, then we need to see it before the main plot mentions the discovery that he's done so.

All in all? A rewriting headache. Bits and pieces of Victor scenes will have to be revised, rewritten, moved, or cut altogether. And it means a very careful tracking of chronology and plot points.

Now, just like there are authors who outline and plot, I know there are many authors who have no trouble bouncing around in time while they're writing. I've just discovered I'm not one of them.

Tomorrow my guest is Maris Soule, who's going to be giving away an ARC of her newest release. Her topic, writing and moving, is one I can relate to. Be sure to check back. And, all week, Barbara Vey is having her 4th anniversary bash at her Publisher's Weekly Beyond Her Book blog. I'll be in and out all day tomorrow when the blog will take place at a murder scene, featuring authors of Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Adventure. Graham Harrigan of my NOWHERE TO HIDE will be there, too, with his Death By Chocolate Cake. Stop by for some fun.

10 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

There was one book where I wrote the majority of the book out of order...started at the end, wrote the beginning, then wrote the middle. I even skipped around from scene to scene. Worked well for the creative process, but the edits were a nightmare! Now I limit how much I'll write out of order.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - yes, I'd rather do the "hard stuff" in the first draft, I've decided, to avoid the nightmare.

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm pretty much a straight-through writer. I've gone back and inserted scenes, but not as I'm first drafting the story.

Judi said...

I'm with you Terry. I can't write out of order. I've dabbled with it, but the problems I've run into are with the character arc. They've changed in the story, but in the out-of-order scene, they're stuck in some other place.

Great post. Nice reminder for me to write the way I know best.

Maryann Miller said...

I try not to write out of order, as it makes that second and third draft so much easier, but even when I have a simple plot outline new plot elements pop up all the time. If they are good, I want to use them, but that will entail going back and reworking some earlier scenes to do some foreshadowing or motive set up. I don't have room in my office for a board like you use, Terry. But I have a large notebook in which I keep track of what important things take place in each chapter. That helps when I need to go back to make changes.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - agreed,there are always things to fix, but this system made it harder for me.

Judi - yes, continuity for characters is just as important as plot points.

Maryann - I like the post-its. I'd probably stick them on the wall if I didn't have room. I know someone who said she pins them to her curtains!

Paty Jager said...

I agree with Barbara Parker, you need to either write down everything or in my case I have scenes that play in my head that never get into the book that help me see my characters better and help me write the scenes that do go in the book.

But I never write out of order. I can't. I have to go in a logical line even though I'm not a plotter.

Interesting!

Kim Bowman Author said...

Oh, Terry, I can see how that would be frustrating. I, unfortunately, work a lot better by hopping around all over the place. As a matter of fact, I almost always write the end before I write the beginning:) My biggest issues is writing/explaining detail:)

Pat Marinelli said...

The closest I've ever come to writing out of order was when I hit a wall about 3/4 into the novel. I knew how my story ended so I wrote the end of the book which turned out to be a good thing becasue it gave me the answer to get around my wall. Basically, I pretty much write the story in the order it happens. Not a huge outliner either, I just start with the story idea, my characters, my setting, and go.

Terry Odell said...

Paty - yes, I have a lot in my head as well--but sometimes writing it down helps

Kim - more power to you. I recall Harrison Ford talking about filming Regarding Henry, and how he had note cards of all the phases of recovery, because they shoot totally out of order, so he would know what his character could/couldn't in each scene.

Pat - Oh, I've skipped ahead, but never like this. More like leaving myself little notes, like, "fix the lighting" so I go back and patch rather than slow down for research. But editing is hard enough without worrying about continuity lapses because you've written chapter 12 before finishing chapter 4.