Writing Ahead Without Losing Your Place

Writing can be a rather disorganized task, especially when it comes to planning out scenes. We all have stuff we enjoy writing: extended dialogue, scenery descriptions, machine porn, romantic sequences, epic battles. As our fingers itch to type these parts, the details play over and over in our minds until we have them more or less solidified. We can’t wait to toss them all out onto the page.

Except, there’s a scene or two before them in the chapter. Some interaction we haven’t quite got worded or an action sequence we aren’t entirely sure of. Maybe there’s a few research notes we haven’t gotten to yet. We want to maintain our daily writing quota, but trying to get through this scene leaves us stuck. It’s one of those “stare blankly at three sentences for several hours” kinds of situations. We know what should happen before the scene we’re ready to write, but we aren’t quite sure how to word it. How do you move past this writing road block and get your daily word count in?

Easy. Write the scene you want to write. The trick is not to allow yourself to go too far ahead.

There’s nothing really wrong with writing some things out of order. You simply have to make sure that everything established in that scene fits once you go back to write the stuff before. For example, I recently started work on what would be the sixth chapter of a book by starting in the middle. One section I skipped over writing was minor. The scene has a thief waking up to find himself in a greenhouse after being knocked unconscious in an alley on his way home. Since I had more or less solidified his confrontation with the other characters in the scene, I simply wrote a note to [ADD GREENHOUSE DESCRIPTION] for when I came back to that part. Part of it was my eagerness to get to the dialogue, but the fact that I wanted to have some references on-hand for the description played a part as well.

But that’s only for maybe one or two paragraphs. I also have a half a chapter to write before this scene comes into play.

When my character wakes up, I shift the scene by mentioning the last things he saw before blacking out and then comparing them to what’s new, so I need to make certain the previous scene ends on those notes. I also have the character retrieve a letter from inside his jacket, so I have to remember to write the scene he’s given the letter by another thief. It’s easier to keep track of things like this within a single chapter.

I don’t recommend going forward like this for something extremely plot relevant though, especially if the characters make a big discovery or if there’s a lot of exposition involved unless your story is both well-planned and documented. In cases like this, I’d recommend writing the scenes out by hand in a notebook. Then you can use then as references once you’re ready to type the scene out.

It helps to keep writing ahead in small distances. If you go too far, you risk creating confusion that will be a pain to edit later. I find moving ahead in small bursts helps me upkeep my writing quota in addition to allowing me to figure out how to words the events taking place around those scenes.

Do you sometimes write ahead?

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Categories: musings, On Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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