I have a question about writing a draft through as opposed to writing it in unordered pieces and putting it together later. Which method do you prefer? I find that I have several scenes for the novel I wish to write sitting clear in my head, whereas I am struggling to get the beginning going. Should I write the scenes that are coming to me first and go back and write the rest later or should I attempt to write the story straight through? Any tips for keeping organized if I choose the former?
I write in chunks and pull it all together later… mostly.
Very occasionally I come up against a piece of writing (or it comes up against me; sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which…) that for structural or other reasons requires me to write it linearly. When this happens, I roll with it. Nothing much else I can do, since in my experience when I try to change a linear project to a nonlinearly-structured one, or vice versa, this is a recipe for trouble.
That said: I’ve been exactly where you are. Many times. The middle of a book arrives first, or chunks of the middle of it. Or the beginning and the end but no middle. (The beginning of The Door into Starlight arrived in 1986. The end of TDIS arrived in 1982. Still working on the middle.)
My advice to you is to write what you’ve got now, because you might not have it later. …Seriously. There is nothing more piteous, or pitiable, than a writer who has through laziness or overconfidence left some piece of character business or plot action lying around the back of their mind because “it’ll keep” or “it’s so obvious” and then has come back to it later only to find that the execution is a sad shadow of what it would have been previously when the concept was new and fresh. Or worse, when you’ve completely forgotten what you intended to do, and you find yourself staring at what was a lively space in your mind — practically vibrating because it was so crammed full of business — that’s now gone flat and dull because you got complacent about it.
So write what you’ve got now, slot it into a likely spot in a master document, tag it in some way so that you can find it again, and then work on filling in material around it as inclination or inspiration or your normal writing schedule move you to. Really, really useful for this kind of writing is Scrivener. I bless the day Charlie Stross put me onto it: it has saved my sanity more than once. Scrivener is built for handling fiction (and much other writing) in small manageable chunks that you can move around, and comes equipped with endless ways to keep track of what you’re doing.
Look at this, for example: this is a screenshot of the file that has the YW 30 Day OTP material in it.
Green labels in the binder are a signal to me that the material in there is complete: red labels mean there’s little or nothing in there: yellow means there’s a significant chunk of material there but there’s still stuff to do yet. (For more involved projects I have extra color signals to mean almost-finished, first draft, second-draft-needs-polished, etc etc. It’s all endlessly customizable.) More to the point, though, when you’re working in Scrivener you don’t have to stuff everything into a single Word or other word processing file and then go hunting around for one particular piece of business by desperate means like trying to remember a line of dialogue or the way you described something and then searching for that text string. Instead you can find things instantly, because as you see, particular subsections can be clearly labeled. You can turn smaller documents into folders and have even smaller chunks of business stacked up inside them, layers deep: as many layers as you need.
…I could go on about the virtues of Scrivener until people start assuming I’m taking money from them (which I’m not, I’m just really enthusiastic about it), but seriously, this is the first WP program that was built with actual writers in mind, and it shows, all over it; and it’s also one of the most affordable ones. (Also they’re doing a pre-NaNoWriMo deal again this year. Use it free for November and then get a 50% discount by showing them your “I finished my novel” certificate. Even if you don’t finish you can still get 20% off. So a good deal all round.)
Anyway, hope this helps. 🙂
(Original post at Tumblr: http://dduane.tumblr.com/post/100001782661/i-have-a-question-about-writing-a-draft-through-as )