Friday, March 23, 2012

Out of Order


Okay, I have been suffering from problems with being blocked. I’ve been pushing through it, slow and steady and am just happy to be putting out words again. One thing that seems to be helping me?

Writing out of order.

Now, I’m a pantser and do a bare minimum of plotting, timelines, etc. So writing out of order seems, strange. I usually just light that fuse and take off, writing pretty straight, beginning to end. Looks like that is changing.

And it’s working.

What I found is that even when I’m not writing, when the actual sitting-ass-in-chair-and-typing isn’t happening…the story is still winding through my head. If I can’t find the right step to take with the next scene…I will daydream myself to scenes ahead.

So why not write them?
My memory has grown worse and worse the last few years. And I’ve been told this is natural for one suffering through the hormonal battlefield that is my present insides and that it will get better… What has been going on is that I come up with
great ideas for later scenes, great dialogue, turning points and I wasn’t making notes or writing them down and…I’d forget what I’d come up with.
*pounding head on table.
Great ideas! Great dialogue! Great pivot points! GONE!
Sigh.
So, I took an online class on how to avoid procrastination and defeat writers block and one of the techniques the teacher talked about was something she called helicoptering. Work on what works at the moment, what inspires and makes you excited, then climb back onto the whirlybird and pop above your work…go to the next area that beckons.

This sorta goes against the ‘deal with the trouble spots first’ method… But that is more the medivac idea. This is more the sightseeing method. Less stressful, more pretend this is a vacation and not a battle field.

I didn’t think it would work for me. I had this vision of trying to splice all these scenes together and groaned. Then…I had a scene and some dialogue pop into my head while driving around the curve of Monterey Bay and said to myself. “Self, this is stupid. It’s gonna take 10-15k before you hit that place and the stuff between it and now is…going to be hard to make interesting. Just write it!”

So I did. And I like it and it’s moving forward. I may end up skimming the 10-15k write and turning it into a 3-5k. I mean, if I was sorta ‘bored’ at the idea of writing it, what would a reader think? I can go back and fill in the interesting sections…deal with the secondary character story, which is actually more active than what is going on with the main characters…

Yeah, I can make this work…

(If you find yourself dealing with writer’s block and procrastination, I can’t recommend this class more. Hillary Rettig’s 7 Secrets of the Prolific. I love the book and for me to say that…the writer who hates self-help writing books…you know it must be easy to read.)
What do you think of this method? Snippets that are out of order…(stop snickering!) Do you think it will show in the final that I did this? I do wonder a bit about it… Have you ever done this, considered it? Any insights on how you get around writer’s block?

28 comments:

quantum said...

In books on 'Energy Medicine' you will get a description of the various subtle energy systems that keep us healthy and functioning properly. The main ones are the Aura, the Chacras, the Meridians and the basic grid.

Healers like Donna Eden or Carolyn Myss can see these energies and associate disease and malfunction with constrictions or distortions of the energy flows. They can manipulate the energies to get them flowing properly again, rather like squeezing toothpaste in a tube.

I suspect that writer's block is probably associated with some temporary blockage in the sixth and seventh chakra. Techniques for clearing the chakras are described by Donna in her book, which might be helpful.

Using your mind in unusual (for you) ways will also help, like writing about your daydreams, or writing short stories for scenes that may appear in the book. When your writing energies are flowing nicely again, then you can get back to the main project.

I find all this theoretical subtle energy stuff fascinating and if I could have you horizontal on my couch for 30 mins Maureen, I'm sure that I could get you functioning again.

Myself, I find a brisk walk in the hills, communing with nature, does the trick. LOL

TerriOsburn said...

Q's couch is getting awfully crowded this week. :) I love this idea of energies though. I'm making a note to look up this Donna person's book. Thanks, Q!

I also need that Rettig book. I'm doubtful there's a cure for my level of procrastination, but I'm willing to try!

I write in order, mostly because I'm anal that way but also because there are things that happen along the way that will inform and shape the scenes to come. So I feel like writing a scene for 50K from now would be pointless because the 50K before it isn't formed yet and it's mostly likely that far away scene will change. Or I don't have enough info about the story yet to include what it needs.

All my problem, since I know this works for lots of writers. Scenes do pop in my head out of order and for those I'm learning to take notes. Not write the whole scene, but make a note of what I want to do. Especially that good dialogue. Mustn't lose the good dialogue!

Most of the time, it's the black moment that comes to me while I'm still trying to create the beginning. Not sure why, but I LOVE writing black moments. Maybe that's my inner pirate coming through?

Janga said...

I made a note of the Rettig book, Chance. It sounds like something I need. Is the book available without the class?

I'm a non-linear writer. I always have been, whether I'm writing fiction, literary criticism, or poetry. I do write reviews and straight informative pieces linearly, but I write the scenes in my novels in the order in which they come to me. It does mean sweating blood sometimes for the stitch-together scenes, but it just seems to be my process. I've tried starting at the beginning and moving in a straight line, but my brain doesn't seem to work that way.

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - HOW do you write poetry out of order??

Maureen said...

Horizontal on your couch, eh?

(Is he flirting with me?)

That aside, I'm sure it is a matter of blocked energy. Chakras, Meridians, Grids (?). I have simply had no will to get the words out and when I did it sounded like I was stuttering....

But it's getting better! And I think changing it up and tossing out these out of order scenes made a real difference!

Maureen said...

Terri - I really fought this idea, but then I realized I was losing scenes, bits of dialogue, etc. Good stuff!

I think it's all about writing them down and getting the energy level up again, then maybe getting back to the 'correct' order of things and writing as if that scene up there doesn't exist. When I get to it, it stays untouched or it is changed to fit how I got there.

You know, I liken it to eating desert first. Something I'm enthusiastic about to get the juices flowing...so I'll enjoy dinner more!

Maureen said...

Janga - The book doesn't come with the class, but I highly recommend buying it. She covers a great deal of the material in the class, but I read the book as we hit things and the class just can't cover everything in the book. But she's great about answering questions and helping you figure out what is at the heart of the procrastination snarl!

I can see writing poetry out of order... ;-)

Maureen said...

Okay, crew, we're moving slow this morning. I'm off to walk the dog and hit my Starbucks. Be back in a bit.

Donna Cummings said...

Maureen, I was told the memory thing would get better as you get through the process -- but now I think THEY LIED. LOL It's probably better, but not at the same levels it used to be. *sigh*

I think it's good to be open to trying new ways. And if the old ways aren't producing, it only makes sense to change up the routine. :) Just when I think, "Aha! This will work for me forever!", it doesn't. LOL So I guess as writers we just have to keep adjusting and morphing and doing whatever gets the stories onto the page.

MsHellion said...

My memory is not hot now. I'm going to be one dotty older person sooner than I think. Damn.

I don't like to write out of order, I prefer linear. But I do have a story I'm working on that we did madwrites for. Where you had to include a sentence or a word or a theme? And I just wrote scenes about that book that I really, really liked. I was possibly working on that story at the time of the madwrite stage, but I don't think so. *LOL*

Anyway those are the scenes that are out of order. The others are more linear.

I've finally sat down and done a write through like a synopsis of sorts and wrote to the end. It was amazing. I had never done that with a story; I usually don't know. But this one I did. That's cool.

I'm struggling with my beginning. I know I will have to rewrite it...but I obsessed with starting out on the right foot, making it a good start anyway. If it starts out dull I'm afraid it'll continue that way.

P. Kirby said...

Written in current WIP: Prologue, Ch1, Ch2, Ch3 (partial, written yesterday), Ch4 (partial, missing transitions), Ch5 (missing transitions), plus a section called "Chapters Much Later," consisting of scenes (dialogue snippets) that came to mind and had to be written. Today, I'm working on more "later stuff" as well as emotional stuff to work into Ch3 or 4.

I write the way movie makers film. Out of order. It's the only thing that works for me. If my energy is directed at a scene much later, better to write it while I'm interested. When I'm bored with a scene, it shows. Writing the later stuff, often reveals a truth about earlier interactions.

But ... I *really* like revision. This is probably not an approach for someone who likes to have a relatively "clean" first draft.

Maureen said...

Donnaroo, I keept being told it gets better. If it doesn't, I'm going after some people with a great big ax.

If I remember who said it.

I agree, if something is working, don't break it and try something new. But wow, if something isn't working, then take a turn at something new!

Maureen said...

Hellion, that is sorta how I slid into trying this. Challeged to write a scene at my local RWA meeting, I wrote one that doesn't occur until much later...and it was so freeing and the most words I'd written in months...that sorta converted me as a believer.

I don't know that I would want to write an entire book this way...but at least it's opening me up to thinking outside of linnear.

Maureen said...

Pat! Love that you take the approach of writing what works when it works, period. That seems to me more in line with your artistic approach.

I'm trying to stick to a 'and then' approach, save for when I get stuck. Or if some scene pops into existance from out of nowhere...write it down. Sometimes just notes will work, but I don't trust my memory right now. Why do detailed notes? Just write the scene! It isn't written in blood and I can skip-dip around it once I catch up to it... ;-)

Scapegoat said...

The only way I've been able to keep moving forward in my writing is to sometimes write

(insert a scene here about x and x doing x)

and then writing what is coming to me at the time.

I also will input reminders to check facts, etc if I know what might happen in a scene I skipped might affect the current scene. (Check and make sure Ronnie really does forget her purse at the hospital) for example.

I have these snippets writen here and there throughout the WIP just waiting for the revision phase.

MsHellion said...

Mo, I thought you'd said you were more of a linear writer. The funniest thing about this blog is how we'll write a blog saying we do things JUST THIS WAY and we CAN'T POSSIBLY do them the other way. Then 6 months or a year will pass, and I swear to you every one of us have done this, we will do the thing we couldn't possibly and it actually worked that time.

I don't think any of these things work ALL THE TIME, but the goal is to just keep writing, no matter what that takes. :)

TerriOsburn said...

My linear brain is amazed by all this hopping around. And telling me, "Don't even think about it."

Pat - Did you always write that way or did this idea come along after you'd been writing for a while? I'm interested in what activates these kinds of choices and changes in the process.

Maureen said...

See, and this works for you! I do find getting the details right can get in the way. I wrote a heavy emotional scene the other day and couldn't remember the name of Ria's husband...so I called him Andrew. I don't think that was his name, but when I go back through the book once I hit that 'The End' place, I'll slip back in and correct those things.

Getting the geography right is driving me nuts. It's set on the east Coast and I had Boston south of New York for awhile. Fixed that, then I had Philadelphia on the way to New York, going south...and had to change that! I need a map of the east coast next to me. I can bring one up my phone but it's really small... And I have to keep in mind in my world, the sea level has risen to the extent that a lot of the coastal areas have moved inland due to the strength of the tides...

ARGH!

All this as my memory is melting out my ears...

P. Kirby said...

Terri: Yes.
Looking back at all my projects, including unfinished stuff and, cough, fan fiction, I see this pattern. I get a scene in my head; not necessarily the first scene; often a big emotional or action scene, and it gets written. I think this is how most of my characters are born. Earlier chapters happen only after I get a better idea where the hell the story is going.

The biggest problem, early on, for me, was that I'd get too attached to some of these snippets, and feel like I absolutely had to keep them in the story. I now take the approach that nothing is sacred, everything I write in the WIP, no matter how cute the dialogue or lovely the description, can end up on the cutting room floor. The later chapters could ditched simply because I took the plot in a different direction.

irisheyes said...

I never write in order. I always have different scenes from different times throughout the story pop into my head. Like Janga said, the tough part is going to be piecing them all together.

Like P.Kirby, I'm afraid that I'm too attached to the random stuff that comes to me and I may not be able to ditch it if need be. You know... trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We'll see when the time comes.

It's funny that I write like that because everything else in my life is pretty orderly. I like order and am a happier person without chaos. Go figure!

TerriOsburn said...

The muse can be contrary, can't she? LOL!

I'm glad to hear you both mention the idea of getting too attached. I'm adding that idea to my ecourse stuff so it's good to know I have real life writers to back it up! (And not just me. *g*)

Maureen said...

Pat, you sorta prewrite from the sounds of it. And yeah, falling in love with something that later won't fit? Been there, done that.

I'm stubborn though and am likely to haul out the biggest hammer and MAKE it work... Hee, hee...

Irish, you're a quilter, I bet...

Terri - looking forward to playing the lab rat for that blog!

Maureen said...

Hels! Yes, of course I am a linear writer. Most of the time. But this really got me unstuck. I didn't continue or intend to continue writing with this method. I like starting at the beginning and going to the end... But! When I'm stuck? This helped me get going!

quantum said...

Terri: I love this idea of energies though. I'm making a note to look up this Donna person's book. Thanks, Q!

Terri, Donna Eden is a leader in the field and her book is becoming a classic!

Maureen: Horizontal on your couch, eh?
(Is he flirting with me?)


Maureen, I'm a married English Gentleman!
The Donna Eden technique (similar to Reiki) is best done with the guinea pig ... er patient, lying flat. The hands then move in a circular motion clockwise and anticlockwise about 3 inches above the body for 10-15 mins per chakra.

I fear my flirting days may be over! LOL

TerriOsburn said...

This is a risk-free flirting zone, Q. Flirt away!

Looking up Ms. Eden's books now.

quantum said...

Terri, You always could break through my resistance! *smile*

Maureen said...

Ooooh! An aural massage! I'd love that! I had an actual physical massage on Tuesday and my therapist does some of that. Then a Bowen body treatment yesterday... Yes, an aural massage would be divine!

And it's okay, I'm a married lady, we can flirt without risk, as Terri states!

quantum said...

The chakras are supposed to store memories and your history with earliest memories at the deepest (seventh) level, so massaging the chakras might help your memory difficulties. I was thinking more of the crown and third eye chakras for writer's block, but they are all inter-connected and connected to the aura. Some would say that they are also connected to the divine.

So, my dear, I think I can say that my treatment would spruce up your aura, leave you tingling all over with a warm pleasurable feeling, and of course get you back writing like there's no tomorrow! LOL