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So can we write the interesting action bits first, then add in the in between stuff, that maybe needed to understand the story or characters, but isnt so exciting by itself?

For example the interesting scene maybe a scene where the hero fights ninjas and sharks(or ninjas on sharks ;-) ) , but there might have been a earlier scene where the hero talked to his informers to find the villains lair.

So can we write the action scene first, then go back and write the other parts?

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note to self: must write story about shark-riding ninjas –  rmx May 26 '11 at 14:46
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@rmx - Won't be much of a story. You can't see ninjas except when they kill you, and they always kill everyone, so you know who'll win in the end ;) –  Craig Sefton May 26 '11 at 14:50
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Maybe they're ninjas-in-training, so they only wing everyone. Or maybe it's a really deranged Halloween party. Don't get bogged down by traditional definitions. ;) –  Lauren Ipsum May 26 '11 at 15:45
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What if it's shark-riding ninjas vs robot ninjas? –  Ralph Gallagher May 26 '11 at 20:01
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How about a story with ninja-riding sharks? –  JAB May 26 '11 at 20:25

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

To expand on Craig's suggestion, go ahead and write the exciting scenes if that's what keeps you motivated, so long as you're willing to "kill your darling" later on.

Self-editing is one of the hardest parts of writing. You have to be able to jettison even the most beloved turn of phrase, paragraph, scene, chapter, plot twist, character if it doesn't serve the story. (My solution to this is to keep the original in a slush file. That way I can go back and savor it as often as I like without having it clutter up the main work.)

So you have your scene where the hero shoots the ninjas on sharks in Chapter 47, and later on, while writing Chapter 10, you decide that the hero has fallen in love with one of the ninjas and couldn't kill him. So you stash your original "Ch47/Shoot everything" version somewhere, and either edit the copy or use the original as a guide to rewrite Chapter 47 so it now falls in line with your backstory.

The most important thing is that you have to be willing to let go of what you wrote, no matter how fabulous it is. You must be able to rewrite and/or edit. Like Craig, I generally find it easier to write more or less in sequence so that I don't have to rewrite the fabulous chapter to accommodate the previous amazing chapters, but sometimes I get hit by a bolt of lightning and the out-of-sequence scene bursts fully-formed from my forehead, and I am geased to get to a keyboard and capture it before it evaporates. Don't discount the power of inspiration. Just be aware that you may have to tweak or discard it later.

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+1 For tips on editing, good stuff. –  Craig Sefton May 26 '11 at 12:50

There is nothing wrong with writing out of sequence. However, it might be beneficial to have an outline that you can follow so that you know where the connections are going to be made. If you identify specific actions in each chapter, you can write them in any order you please.

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You can write however you want to.

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But if you don't,

No.

Sequence a only in writing (sometimes you have to go back and revise) option the not writer has is.

Hard can be that process.

It's the same with sentences and paragraphs as it is with books. Sometimes, the end is the most important and needs to be written (or fleshed out) first. There is only one writing rule: keep writing.

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What? This is very confusing. –  Neil Fein May 27 '11 at 14:27
    
The first few sentences are not sequential. They need to be edited. The last is the important bit, the part that was written first. The rest needs to be edited to be intelligible. That's the danger of writing out of sequence, it involves a lot of editing and rewriting. But sometimes, you need to get the last line down first because it's important. –  patrick May 27 '11 at 15:22
    
Good point, well-made. Do an edit or something so I can remove my downvote? (Add a space or something.) –  Neil Fein May 27 '11 at 16:42
    
I think patrick is cleverly demonstrating by example. :) –  Lauren Ipsum May 27 '11 at 19:07

No, Several times I've gotten an idea for the last page of a story, NOT the climax and I build backwards from there. Sometimes I get a climax or the key problem setup scene first.

However there is something to be said to rewriting your whole story all over again from the beginning once it is complete. This is a good way to turn a collection of scenes into a coherent story by glueing it all together.

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Yes, I've written more than one piece from the end backwards: the last line or scene came to me in a flash, and I had to figure out how to get there. But also more than once, when I arrived there, items had to be changed. Case in point: J.K. Rowling had the last scene (the epilogue) of Harry Potter VII written for YEARS before she was done the series, and had it in a safe-deposit box somewhere. The last word was "scar." When she actually arrived at the end, she found that she had to rewrite it, so the last sentence runs "All was well." –  Lauren Ipsum May 26 '11 at 18:07

You can write the book in any way you choose, as long as it works for you. However, you should always keep in mind that books are good because of their characters, not just because of the "exciting" scene. So, while you can write down elements of your book in any order you want, you should have a very good idea of who your characters are, regardless.

It's worth mentioning that you may create more work for yourself later on down the line by writing things out of sequence. Very often characters take on a life on their own as you write, so you could find yourself jumping back to an earlier scene, writing something that "works", but which could invalidate or ruin everything else you wrote.

To pick a random example, maybe the hero is fighting the Ninjas on sharks, and doesn't hesitate to shoot them all to pieces. However, when you jump to an earlier bit, you decide it's a great idea for the character to fall in love with one of the killer Ninjas, or perhaps make one of the sharks his pet that he had raised for many years before it got stolen and trained into a hero-killing machine.

Suddenly, your action scene might not make sense, because the character would be completely conflicted in wantonly killing his lover Ninja and/or his favourite pet shark.

Or perhaps you suddenly realise that there's no way the evil mastermind will have Ninjas on sharks, he'd have Ninjas on leopards.

Either way, you likely have to start planning some major re-writes of your later scenes.

I personally wouldn't consider writing a novel or short story in the way you describe. It's often the case that the best ideas for what happens next unfold as you write, and if you've already "written ahead", you may well be boxing in your creativity. You could force yourself down a particular train of thought, and ignore other, better ideas and solutions that come up in order to stick to what you've already done.

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"[B]ooks are good because of their characters" -- this is overly broad, and a lot of readers (and a lot of writers) would disagree. –  JSBձոգչ May 26 '11 at 16:29
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@JSBangs - you may be right, but I can't think of any books offhand that I read where the characters were bad (as in, poorly thought out), yet it was still a good read. Any examples? –  Craig Sefton May 27 '11 at 14:59

I always just write interesting parts (in sequence) and develop them until the whole thing makes sense without the boring parts ;)

Or at least I try to...

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Love the simplicity of this answer :) –  Craig Sefton May 26 '11 at 12:55
    
@Craig: Thanks. I was aiming for "thought provoking" rather than "glib". I could expand on it easily but I don't think I would end up saying much more... –  One Monkey May 26 '11 at 12:57
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You must have edited this answer down to leave only the interesting parts ;) –  BradC May 26 '11 at 18:13
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@BradC: Now I just need to transfer that into my story about Samurai who ride Barracudas. –  One Monkey May 27 '11 at 8:08

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