Straight Ahead

I am a linear writer.  A very linear writer.  And what I mean by that is when I write a story, I start at the beginning, and write in chronological order, scene by scene, until I reach the end of the story.  I may rearrange scenes later, or insert a new scene at the beginning of the story or between two other scenes, but when my first draft emerges, it’s in sequence.

I know other writers who are very different; they have no problem whatsoever writing out of sequence, writing scenes as they come and worrying later about what order to put them in.  I’ve tried writing like that, but it feels so unnatural; like trying to eat with my ears, it just didn’t work.  I’ve given it a serious go; it’s not like I haven’t tried it and hypocritically passed judgement on it.  No, it just doesn’t work.  If I start thinking about writing non-linearly, then I start to wonder things like, "But what if I just end up skipping all the difficult scenes, and write only the fun ones?"

So, I write linearly.  I’ve made my peace with it.

The downside, though, is that I end up having to write those difficult scenes as I come to them.  I can’t just skip over them.  I’ve tried, but then my overdeveloped sense of guilt kicks in, and I can’t write anything else until I finish that other scene, at least with a token effort.  I can’t even write, "Finish this scene later", because then it feels like an incomplete brick in a wall.  When you’re building a brick wall, you can’t just mark a brick you don’t feel like working on and promise to come back to it later (I’ve laid bricks, so I know this is true).

One painful consequence is that my writing output is not consistent.  For example: I’ve been working on this one scene with Fred and his wife, Vivian, for nearly a week now.  It’s not meant to be a particularly touching or moving scene, but it’s meant to convey a lot about the two characters in some relatively subtle ways that I haven’t quite figured out yet.  I think it’s almost done, thank God, but it’s been a slow slog.  The last long scene I had to write, with Hank meeting Doctor Nefario for the first time, was much easier, and I pounded it out in a few hours.  During NaNoWriMo I can punch out these painful scenes quickly, but when I’m in a more serious draft, I just don’t feel good doing that; I need to put in at least a little bit of effort.

How linearly do you write?

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