Back to the Drawing Board

Hi, I’m Becky, and I’m a control freak.

Just ask my son. (Okay, on second thought, don’t do that.)

I cannot do it. I tried. I really tried to write scenes out of order. To picture a moment that will happen (maybe? probably?) in my story and write about it. To let go of any structure and just watch the words flow (yeah, right!) onto the page. To put off until later my concerns about why my MC is doing x or y and why she would move on to the next scene to do y or z.

No. Can. Do.

Do you see this?

That’s right. I’m a bit green with jealousy of all you free-formers. Okay, not really. Well, just a little. There are many, many parts of my life where I’d like to be more relaxed, less about peering ahead to see what’s coming, more…okay, I’ll say it–mellow.

On the other hand, I know writing isn’t about doing it the way that works for everybody else. It’s about doing it the way that works for you. Or in this case, me. I hate those jigsaw puzzles that are either all the same color or the same shape. I need some hint of the picture that’s coming and some way of id’ing some of the pieces that will go into it. I need to be able to hold up two pieces and see that there’s a bump to fit in the right-shaped hole. Even if I know, once I start writing again, my muse is going to come along with a paintbrush or a pair of scissors and make big changes.

So I’m plotting again. I’ve got my picture book out to a first reader (Hi, Susan!), and I have this week free to say to Caro, “So what comes next. And why?” And to listen to what she says back.

And it’s making me, yes…a lot more mellow. 🙂


  1. Hey the fact that you’re exploring all these options and then throwing away the ones that don’t work for you is great! It took me a LONG time to realize I could do that and I still have problems with it. For quite a while I was surrounded by people who told me not to talk about the story before I wrote it because it would dilute the power of the story but for me, NOT talking about it with a couple of people makes the voice grow softer and softer until it disappears.

    I can write some scenes out of order for a while but eventually it comes down (for me) to just slugging out a gazillion words of really crappy stuff that may never, ever, be in the story. I can’t wrap my brain around structure enough as a building block. I need to just power through a ton of words and then in subsequent drafts, the structure unfolds.

    But I WANT to be a structure person and I keep trying it and I then I get more frustrated at not being that kind of person.

    Yet here’s the thing, even when it doesn’t work for me, the playing, the experimenting, well it all teaches me something.


  2. beth says:

    No fair! I’m jealous of all you plotters! I free-form…and write myself into corners ALL THE TIME. Then I think: if I had just outlined first, this wouldn’t be a problem….


    • beckylevine says:

      No,you would have that problem. It still happens. For me, it just doesn’t feel as much as if I KNOW it’s going to happen! 🙂


  3. P. J. Hoover says:

    No way do I write out of order. I’m a little baffled by people who can/do.


    • beckylevine says:

      That’s what I’ve been…baffled. Still have some of that, but at least about specific questions that I can see I need answers, too. Instead of all-around baffled.


  4. leftywritey says:

    I love how we all write (we’re on our way to the same goal — the finished ms, or, the finished draft) and yet there are all these different roads and paths twisting and curling toward the same destination. : )

    I, myself, write in a linear fashion, from beginning to end, with no idea from day to day where the story is going. For me, that’s the fun, that’s the thrill — in letting go of control. It contains a scary element, but in a fun way, like a haunted house or a theme park ride.

    I may have an overview of the novel in mind, but I don’t plot or outline or such. I always feel like a writer-medium, channeling the story. I have to believe in myself and my ability, and let flow take care of the rest.

    The thought of plotting or outlining (all that extra work) gives me a headache — I know I’d be lazy, in that situation.

    As for writing into corners, it just means writing out of corners, in my book.

    Anyway, all that matters, in the end, is whatever works — whatever gets us to “The End”.

    Just so interesting how different the process can be for everyone.

    Great post!



    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Em. It is all whatever works and getting to the end! It is so funny how different we all are (altho why we should think every brain would work the same way, I don’t know!)–trying to write the way you describe gives ME the headache! 🙂


  5. claudine says:

    I write every which way, but I don’t say it’s best. I think you hit the nail on the head: it’s whatever works for you. I’ll say this, writing out of order and trying to put it back IN an order convinces me that Hell is real and is a place of confusion.


  6. Amy G. says:

    Oh, Becky, I’d have found that hard, too. Writing in order just seems to be how my mind works. Sometimes things get shuffled later, but by then I have enough grasp of my story and characters to handle that.

    But good for you for trying something new! Every book demands different things from us, so it’s good to be open to new approaches.


  7. Vivian says:

    You’re cracking me up. Yup. Can’t write out of order. Now, if it turns out later that I have to switch scenes around, or add a new scene somewhere – easy. But ask me to to free flow from point A to point F back to point C, on purpose, well…I’d probably stare out the window a lot until I could figure out how to maneuver it back to some form of order.

    Glad you’re working with your style rather than fighting it. Makes writing much more pleasant, doesn’t it?


    • beckylevine says:

      It does make it more pleasant–I’m back to loving the story instead of feeling like it’s all blah.

      I’m with you–move things around, delete, add AFTER I’ve got something down.


      • That’s so funny because I was just thinking that all that plotting and outlining and THINKING has made me feel blah about my story and I need to put the structure away so I can find the fun again.


  8. K.M. Weiland says:

    If this is a meeting for Control Freaks Anonymous, then sign me up! My WIP (which is currently in the outline stages) has decided it wants to be written in an out-of-chronological-order fashion – which is going to be a huge challenge for my very chronologically ordered brain!


    • beckylevine says:

      I thought that’s what mine had decided, but I think I’d actually just gotten scared off by the middle. And the research. And the voice I don’t know yet. And…you get the point.

      So I’m trying to stick to the plotting now. And jsut about to hit that middle again! Good luck with your out-of-order writing!


  9. You’re too funny! I jump around all the time. I can picture a scene with the character and I just scribble it down on a card and flesh it out later. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. But they always help make the characters more real for me. To be perfectly honest, I’m not organized enough to be a plotter 🙂


    • beckylevine says:

      I always feel like I’m not organized enough NOT to plot! Have you read Martha Alderson’s (The Plot Whisperer) stuff on plotters versus pantsers (as in writing by the seat of…)?


  10. I generally write my stories in order but if I get the urge to work on a passage out of order I certainly do it. I can be a control freak myself about certain things but when it comes to the story, I pretty much figure my character knows more than I do so I let him talk when he wants to.

    And I just can’t outline in any specific sort of way. I am getting better about writing brief paragraph descriptions that show where the story will go.

    But living with the story always changes it in ways I don’t expect. And TBH I am mostly lazy about plotting. I’m much more inclined to dive in for the sake of finding the voice and then well, once I’ve started, how can I stop and do something like outline?

    I love that we all find our stories in our own unique ways. I love that there aren’t right and wrong ways to do it.


    • beckylevine says:

      Well, the voice in Healing Water was fantastic, so you’re not going to get any argument from me. 🙂


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