Writing chapters ahead of time and skipping around

J.D.Rajotte

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So I've been struggling with this for a bit. I'm about 33% of the way through the final chapter of my first novel, and I have the next novel already more or less outlined from the get go, (The original outline for the first book has become split into two books). Being that I have future elements of the story already drawn out in detail in my head, (and I daydream about future scenes often) I constantly fight the urge to begin writing other chapters ahead of time when the fire is there, and then bring everything together in order over time. Would this be such a bad idea? Or is sticking to where I'm at and creating the story in consistent order more important.
 

sule

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As long as you have a good organization system that keeps things in order even as you write different parts of the story, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to jump ahead and write later chapters. You should definitely try to write something if you currently have the fire to write it.

My only worry is that this fire to jump ahead is indicative of a lack of excitement for your current work, or the next scene in your outline. If that is not actually the case for you, ignore this. This isn't to say that a writer has to be 100% excited about their work all the time. But if you're having trouble convincing yourself to sit down and write a particular scene, you should ask yourself why you don't want to write it. Are you scared of getting it wrong? (If this is the case, you should write the scene the best you can and fix it later) Does it seem too boring? (If so, then perhaps it isn't doing enough for the story and should be skipped, at least for now) Again, if none of this applies to you, then you can safely ignore this paragraph.

But yes, if you're excited to write something then you should write it, so long as you keep the future parts organized so that you know where they are when it comes time to put everything together in chronological order.
 

The Judge

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I've always done it, but that's because I'm a pantser not a planner, so I'm working the story out as I write it and if I don't write things down as I think of them, it's all too easy for me to forget them entirely. So at the very least I scribble notes for future scenes which I can then expand as and when necessary. But very often if I get stuck on a scene because the words just aren't coming then it helps me to work on something else that occurs later on for which the words are flowing, as it means I keep writing and in the world, and I'm not sitting agonising and beating myself up over a blank screen. I've often had as many as a dozen part-written chapters all in different stages of development from a few sentences and ideas up to all-but-finished.

What I've found useful in this respect is to write in discrete chapters rather than one long document. So if I have a brainwave for a later scene I'll start a new Word document, give it an arbitrary chapter number that seems suitably far away, and then write the idea down. That way the scribbled note doesn't get lost, nor does it get in the way of the earlier chapters, but it's there and easily found as and when I want to revisit it. (Invariably the chapter number ends up having to be changed, as I write far too many chapters in between, because I always underestimate how much I'll write!)

There is a big drawback to doing it, though. Sometimes I've written a good scene or chapter towards the end, but as I've made my way towards it something has happened that means it can't stand as written -- not necessarily a plot issue, but it might be the tone or atmosphere, or just the language used. I then find it difficult to change it, as it's fixed in my mind and giving it a re-write feels wrong, no matter how necessary it is. If you're happy to rip up your first drafts and rewrite things from scratch on second and subsequent drafts -- something I can't bring myself to do -- then you'll be fine.

Having said all that, I don't think I would allow myself to get pulled away from writing the very last chapter in order to rush on to the next book. I think in this circumstance unless I was completely stuck and getting worked up about it, I'd maintain discipline and just get the damn thing written.
 

DLCroix

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Never reject a creative impulse since it is a message from your muse that the brain has already processed information. It is in a precarious way and will still need a lot of work, it is obvious, but if, for example, we take the blank page conflict, obviously it will always be much better to have a base of chapters as you say, impulsively written, because it is already something what you can work with.
 

Dragonlady

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just be aware that stuff may change as you skip backwards and forwards. I did htis a lot with my last (subsequently abandoned ) project and scenes often had to be rewritten as i got to them, but writing them still helped the creative process along.
 

K.S. Crooks

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Whenever I'm stuck in a section of my story I write a future chapter. The issue a sometime have is that I know where I want the characters to be, I simply haven't found a way I like for them to get there. Writing a future scene or chapter frees my mind and lets my subconscious work on things for me. I usually don't even need to finish the next chapter before I know what I was missing.
 

tinkerdan

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Wherever you can kindle the creative force is where you might find the best inspiration--you really only need to buckle down an discipline yourself when working on editing the final draft.
 

DAgent

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I've found myself working very quickly on the start of a story and maybe getting three chapters worth of material done in a couple of days, then re-reading and realising somethings need to be switched around, stuff on page 5 might need to go after page 18, things on page 21 might serve better way later on in stuff that's not yet been written.

What I would recommend is to write down your ideas, even if it's not in an outline as such, just on the last page of the story so far so you can look over them quickly while writing.

Another thing I've done more lately, as I tend to have more than one protagonist, is write a first draft following one character up to a certain point while they are busy doing their own thing, then do the same for any other characters, then chop those sections up and put them together in the "proper" order of events. This lets me concentrate of that specific character more without the others becoming a distraction.

Obviously if the characters aren't being split up this method won't work so well, but what the hey, it seems to be working for me :)
 

Wayne Mack

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I'm about 33% of the way through the final chapter of my first novel, and I have the next novel already more or less outlined from the get go ... I constantly fight the urge to begin writing other chapters ahead of time when the fire is there, and then bring everything together in order over time.
I think you will need to answer this one yourself -- you best know your own writing style. The one question I would ask you to consider is, 'How much does working on the second book detract from finishing the first book?'
 

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