Writing Tips: Don’t Write Chronologically

In an article on Writer’s Digest called “10 Tips for Writing” by Chuck Sambuchino, he offers two good tips we writers need to remember:

Don’t write linearly: Don’t set out to write something from beginning to end. A story is meant to be read from front to back, but not necessarily created that way. If you have an idea for writing the sixth chapter first, then start there. The epilogue can even be the first thing you put down on paper, then work your way back. Scattered chapters will eventually be filled in, and it will force you to look at the story from different angles, which may present different ideas or new approaches. You’d be surprised how well this works when a whole book starts coming together…

Ask for (and take lots of) punishment: It is well worth finding yourself a professional writer or editor and asking/paying them to look at your work. Tell them to give you highly critical feedback with no sugarcoating. Let them go so far as to be cruel too, just so you really get the point. There is a lot of rejection and criticism involved in the publishing industry. Getting accustomed to it sooner than later is advantageous. If you want to be serious about your writing, then you’ll need to know everything wrong with your writing. Accepting and understanding the harsh realities of your shortcomings is a most important step to getting better.

The first point is very important. Write what you know about what you want to say, then go back and fill in the rest of the story. Editing is part of the craft of writing, so let the story unfold as it comes into your mind, not on some chronological journey.

While Writers in the Grove doesn’t offer the harsh feedback noted in this article, such feedback maybe given one-on-one or in other groups designed for such feedback, focused on publishing. We also recommend the Willamette Writers Conference and their various groups and meetups. They offer a wide range of critique and feedback opportunities.

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7 comments

  1. I only “sort of” write chronologically. I write this way until I get stuck on a scene. If I don’t feel like writing it out, I skip it. I usually write a few sentences so I know what I need to fill in later.

    I also write with sheets in Ulysses. So if I decide to backtrack and add a scene in later, I can just slip the sheet in between the sheets that are already there without any editing. Sheets are awesome.

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  2. I wish Scrivener had an iOS app. I like Scrivener better than Ulysses, but I do my first few drafts on the iPad. I don’t break out the desktop until it’s time to do the serious edits.

    Ulysses is very cool, but it’s Mac only. Scrivener runs on Windows and Mac and that would just make my life easier.

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  3. It’s silly, but the main reason I want it cross platform is that our Mac is the oldest desktop in the house, so my five year old daughter is the main user. It’s on a tiny desk with a tiny chair and the few times I’ve had to use it, I hunched over like Schroeder on the tiny piano and my back didn’t forgive me for a week.

    I want to use one of the two PCs we have set up for the grown ups in the house. So does my back. It sounds silly, but my back will tell you otherwise.

    BTW, I really am getting a lot out of your site. Thanks for the useful content!

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  4. Great post! I used to write chronologically but tried writing scenes in whatever order I wanted and I found it to be less restrictive, since it’s just a first-draft. No one else will read it but you, so you can play around with the plot and structure.

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