Conferences / Writing

Linear Writing Vs Hopscotch

Before I start today’s topic, I have some linkage to wade through…

If you’re a straggler looking for the excerpt of THE RIVER’S EDGE, click here

If you want to read an interesting discussion on whether or not authors use outlines for their novels, click here.

I’m hoping to attend the Quad Cities Christian Writers’ Conference in Eldridge, Iowa (March 27-28). I haven’t been there before—and don’t personally know anyone who has—but the classes sound promising. If anyone has attended before and wants to warn me not to go, please speak up now! Or if you are attending this year, feel free to drop me a line… maybe I’ll see you there!

Onward to Tuesday’s Topic:  when writing a first draft, do you start with Chapter One and proceed linearly to The End? Or do you write your favorite scenes first, hopscotching to wherever inspiration leads you?

I’ve heard both sides of this coin from authors who swear by one or the other. EYES OF LIGHTNING had a detailed outline and a linear first draft, which seemed to work fairly well for me. But I was curious to see if another way would work better. For my second novel, I attempted to broaden my horizons and try a different approach.

You know how some scenes just beg to be written? You have this incredibly vivid scene inside your head, and you play it over and over again to refine the dialogue or descriptions. But maybe this scene is toward the end of the novel; so if you’re a linear writer, you’re out of luck until you can crank out 50,000 more words. But if you’re a hopscotcher, you merely jump to that scene and let loose. Instant gratification.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? So last week I had one of those fabulous scenes for THE RIVER’S EDGE in my head. I was on Chapter 4, and the scene occurs around Ch. 12. But since I’m a crazy, living-on-the-edge pantser now, I decided to jump to that vivid scene and write it anyway.

No gratification.  More like… disappointment. Emptiness. Instead of existing as a third-dimensional scene with a lot of potential, now it appears flat and bland on my computer screen. Because I didn’t hold off on the scene and use it as motivation/reward for reaching that point in the story, I can’t enjoy it as much. I don’t feel like I deserve it.

Even worse—what if something happens between Ch. 4 and Ch. 12, something I didn’t expect? What if the story veers off the outline in a new direction, thus changing the events of Ch. 12? Then I’ll end up rewriting (or scratching) the entire scene, and I’ll have wasted my time.

Perhaps the events won’t change, but I hope to know my characters even better by that point in the draft. Maybe I’ll know an extra something that contributes to the third dimension. I also found that I wasted time jumping forward and back again. I spent too much time rereading what I’d already written, trying to get back into the time and place of Ch. 4. And dwelling too long on what you’ve already written… not a good idea during the first draft.

So my conclusion:  hopscotching is not for me. Maybe I’m just too uptight… or too out-of-shape.  Either way, I’m sticking to linear writing from now on. However, hopscotching could certainly work for you. Stephenie Meyer likes it, and she seems to have sold a book or two.  

Which do you prefer:  linear or hopscotch? I’d love to hear opinions on the pros/cons of either one.

I’m fighting a head cold, and it fights dirty. I’m off to drown my sorrows with NyQuil. Have a great week, everyone!


2 thoughts on “Linear Writing Vs Hopscotch

  1. I am definitely a linear writer, I’m not a planner either…
    So maybe the two go hand in hand?

    I have certain scenes that I know and am looking forward to, and I work my way towards them, finding out what happens in between as I go along…

    Having said that, I do tend to write two or more novels at once, so if I *wasn’t* writing in order, it would be difficult…

    • I’ve tried the plotter approach and the panster approach … but both times I had to write linearly. Hopscotching just wasn’t an option for me. I definitely like to work toward my favorite scenes as motivation and reward. 🙂

      Writing two or more novels at once … you have my respect! I can barely write ONE at a time, LOL!

      Thanks for the comment!

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