Writing Out of Order

Yesterday, I typed up a quick “summary” of my story, for a critique partner who’s coming up today to do some talking & brainstorming. Summary is in quotes there, because, well…there are lots of gaps and “I don’t know yets” along the way.

But what I really noticed missing is any real sequence to the events.

It’s not that my MC isn’t making choices. Much. The thing is, she just isn’t making them very well yet, and she’s not being really good about making them based on what’s going on around her.

Silly girl.

What’s the big thing about a synopsis? Cause and effect. Yep. This happens, SO the MC takes this action, which makes this happen, which causes her to do this. Etc, etc, etc… Also the big thing about the whole story plot.

Not there yet.

In my mystery, much as I love my character’s, the story–even the early drafts–was very plot driven. And it was a plot I knew before I started writing, the story of a crime, a need to solve, and steps to find clues, check out suspects, and–along the way–stay out of trouble with mom and dad. When I ended a scene, I could say, “Okay, what would he do NOW? Where does he need to go? Who does he need to talk to?”  In this WIP, while I know my hero’s need, and I know the big choices she’ll face and make along the way, those questions aren’t quite working yet.

I’ve got a picture in my mind of a later draft, where I do use scene cards. I’ll write the main goal and action of each scene on a card, then think and sort and organize into a nice, tight path with just the right balance of action and character growth. It’ll look something like the perfect hand of gin rummy. Or poker.

Not so much like a game of 52-pickup. 🙂

What about you? How do you play with sequence? How much do you worry about getting it right in early drafts? Or do you step back later, work your magic, and get it all to fly into place?


  1. P. J. Hoover says:

    I’m going to focus on my plot much more in later drafts. I just like to get the first one down and then work to fix it.
    Good luck!


    • beckylevine says:

      That’s where I’m going right now. It’s a weird way for me to write, but I’m learning to go with it. Good luck to you, too!


  2. I just spit everything out in the MG novel I recently completed – and ended up with 500 pages. And when my YA daughter read it, she wrote in the margin of ~page 250 that she forgot what my MC’s goal was. Oops. Only then did I put together the scenes in a logical sequence, which meant dropping several subplots and characters. The result was a much smoother read and the goal remained in the reader’s mind. (Or so beta readers told me.)

    As I approach my next project, I’m going to try to figure out the plot before I begin. It’s in the thinking stage now.


    • beckylevine says:

      Yay for your daughter! 🙂 That goal can be the most elusive thing.

      I tried to figure out that plot first, then just got frustrated and decided to write. Hopefully, it’s “evolving.”


  3. pete says:

    My manuscript is told in flashback, and none of the scenes really happen in chronological order, they happen in order of importance to the characters.

    What I do is figure out what each specific scene needs to accomplish. If I go into something I know that they’re in Spot A and XYZ needs to be completed by the end of it, I write with that in mind – but I fill it all in as I go for the first time.

    I assume if I did up an outline, I would have the main points highlighted with “Some stuff happens here” interspersed throughout, and I’d fill that in when I got there.


    • beckylevine says:

      Pete, this is right on. I figure out my MC’s goal and try to write around that. Not always successful, but I’ve got it noted at the beginning of the file for revision!


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