So Trying to Write Non-Linear Was a Mistake

What’s funny about our writing process is that somehow it always changes. Even if you have a consistent, comfortable way of working, every project is different, which means sometimes you’ll tweak your process. I haven’t written every short story the same way. Sometimes I need to do a bunch of outlining before I start draft 1. Sometimes I write a bit then realize I have to go back and prep more. My flash fiction tends to come out in one go, whereas even a 2000-word story will sometimes take weeks to draft.

For longer fiction, though, I think I might have finally figured out one thing for sure: I have to write linear.

For this novella-to-novel project, I started off making a bunch of notes on what flashback scenes to add, where I can expand my “A” plot, some character sketch work on things I hadn’t considered, and then spent time trying to figure out where to start. Since I’m not entirely sure where each of my flashback scenes will fit, I figured I could write those first, then expand my “A” plot, and then I’d know the right places to add the flashbacks in. So I picked a flashback scene I thought I knew really well, which will end up becoming one of the emotional tent poles for the novel, and started drafting.

Those 7000 words are done now, but fuck me they were a slog to write. Which was weird, because I know my characters, I know how this moment in the past affected them, and I had an outline for what happened in that moment. But finding the heart of that scene in those 7000 words was really hard, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Naturally I spiraled a little bit afterward, with the usual thoughts like Was taking on this project a huge mistake? and Maybe I’m just a hack and I should stick to short fiction. I had no idea what scene to write next, since none of them were speaking to me. But I need to keep working on this thing, so I decided to go back to page one and start reading, to see if something jumped out at me. No joke, I get partway through my old Chapter 2 and realize exactly what scene needs to be added there (not a flashback). I write that scene, and I keep reading, and sure enough at the end of Chapter 3 my gut tells me exactly what flashback needs to go in there, which is what I started writing next.

There are a bunch of cliched metaphors to describe this process I’ve gone through, but the important thing is that I finally figured out how to write this gorram novel. I figure by the end of this new first draft I’ll have to go back and pad things – I don’t like overly long descriptions in fantasy, which is sometimes a problem when you’re trying to hit a certain word count – but for now, I’ve got a path and procedure to move forward.

No one ever let me try to write non-linear again.

What I did this week:

  • Finished a press release for True Balance (comic) and started sending out
  • Recorded two episodes for Broadcasts from the Wasteland Season 2, including the fabled #BatmanDuel
  • Edited and uploaded a previous Season 2 episode
  • About 2500 words on the novella-to-novel project, not including outline notes

Shout-Out of the Week

Guess who has a new book out? It’s Marie Bilodeau! Her second Guild of Shadows book, Hell Bent, dropped on Amazon and elsewhere as a fancy new eBook. The series centers on a devilish assassin named Tira as she navigates a world that’s largely out to kill her, and her own impulse to make poor life choices. (Wait, that might be Marie’s D&D character…) If this whole series is news to you, learn more about book one, Hell Born, in the link above.

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