Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Do you write sequentially, or episodically?

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Damn. An improper tag deleted my entire message. Grr!

A previous comment (in Your story plot process: how do you do it?) got me thinking.

Do you write stories sequentially, writing each chapter in succession, or do you write episodically, writing specific chapters and fitting them into the story later?

Note, this doesn't refer to the story specifically, as it's possible to write a story sequentially, even if the story jumps around in time (with flashbacks). This is more a question about how you construct stories (i.e. do you finish each specific scene, or do you jump around as you write?).

P.S. Lazeez, you may want to modify the tag code, so it doesn't erase everything it (the tag processor) doesn't understand.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Do you write stories sequentially, writing each chapter in succession, or do you write episodically, writing specific chapters and fitting them into the story later?


Sequentially.

Saying that, when I'm done I may move chapters around.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Do you write stories sequentially, writing each chapter in succession, or do you write episodically, writing specific chapters and fitting them into the story later?


I've done both methods. It depends on how the muse strikes me.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Crumbly Writer

Lazeez, you may want to modify the tag code, so it doesn't erase everything it (the tag processor) doesn't understand.


As long as you close a tag, then you lose nothing. if you start with < i and type here, you'll lose stuff because the processor thinks that anything after the i and until it encounters a closing > is one tag and unknown tags get stripped away.

There is no way to guard against an unclosed tag.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

There is no way to guard against an unclosed tag.

Thanks, Lazeez. That's what I'd assumed happened.

Daydreamz

I always write sequentially. I suppose I'm living one or more of the characters as I go, more than constructing something that already has a structure.

This is probably why my endings so often take quite a few goes before they come right. But I often feel I knew the real ending at an intuitive level, and have to wait and work to bring into the conscious, if you see what I mean.

graybyrd
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Mostly sequentially. But sometimes there's need to jump back and fill in holes, supplement or bridge scenes, or tie together logic gaps. Yeh, all that.

As for holes... plot holes... when screaming for an escape ladder doesn't produce results, a bit of frantic sideways burrowing out helps. Of course, this usually results in yet another hole.

Perv Otaku

It depends a lot on the story itself. When planning a story out, there are sometimes elements with a clear sequence of events, and sometimes disconnected bits that I want to happen but need to work in precisely where in the story.

Some stories spring into your head more or less fully formed, especially the shorter ones. If a concept spurs a lot of ideas, that's when you have to start moving them around to see what the best order of events is.

Wild Willie

Always sequentially. I work out the general plot for the story in advance and then write each chapter filling in the detail. As, up to now, I post as I write, I can't easily go back and amend earlier chapters, so I have to get each chapter right in terms of plot and character development.

The only alternative would be to hold the story back and only post once it's complete which, in my case, could take years!

Perv Otaku

@Wild Willie

The only alternative would be to hold the story back and only post once it's complete which, in my case, could take years!

Oh, absolutely. My first story was indeed years between when I started writing, and when I finished the last proofread run and started publishing it. Since then I've decided to force myself to write an hour a week. I'm in the middle of a story that should turn out to be of similar length, and it may take me only about a year and a half.

Personally, I think it is important to 1) be able to go back and set up foreshadowing or a Chekhov's gun if you suddenly find it to be needed, and 2) have a set and reliable publishing schedule for any given story that readers can rely on and know when to come back for more without dragging it out too long.

But I know plenty of people publish as they go and it works out fine for them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
tppm

I mostly write sequentially, though sometimes with long flashbacks, which are, in turn, written sequentially.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Perv Otaku


Oh, absolutely. My first story was indeed years between when I started writing, and when I finished the last proofread run and started publishing it.


In that case, you need to focus on when to divide a story into multiple books. By limiting the scope of each book, you can finish one, while leaving the others for later. I think a problem with many newbie authors is trying to tell an encyclopedic stories all in one pass. They end up feeling overwhelmed and aren't sure where to end it.

@tppm

I mostly write sequentially, though sometimes with long flashbacks, which are, in turn, written sequentially.


I'd consider that 'sequential writing'. Flashbacks are a different matter, as it's a plot device, but if you write the story sequentially until the flashback, and then continue forwards afterwards, it still counts. If you wrote the flashbacks at the beginning of the story, then added the sequential bits after, that would be writing the story non-sequentially. (Just my opinion on the matter, folks.)

Replies:   Perv Otaku
Ernest Bywater

@Wild Willie

The only alternative would be to hold the story back and only post once it's complete which, in my case, could take years!


Yes, and sometimes that's what it takes to make it work well.

The first story I published I first wrote in the mid 1990s as a response to a bet in a pub. After that I left it sit until 2001 then worked on it off an on for four years. By the time I finished it I had a damn good story that grew from a 7,000 word stroke story to a 110,000 word action saga. It's not at SoL yet due to contractual obligation. Some stories are written in a day, but even so, I've got some unfinished stories I started writing years ago, some were started 12 years ago and sit unfinished until I can think of the best way to fill in the parts between where it is and where I want it to finish.

I had 30 unfinished stories on my main system when it went walkies, I expect to get that data back, just don't know when, and I'll finish them at some point. Since August I've start 11 stories and finished 2, but hope to have more rolling over the finished line in the near future. By them I'll probably have ideas for another 6 or 7 stories and start them as well.

Simply put, if it takes years to write, it takes years, but you don't have to work on only one story at a time.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Simply put, if it takes years to write, it takes years, but you don't have to work on only one story at a time.

I find, to keep my writing fresh, I need to write new chapters in a new story while I'm editing chapters in another story. I may edit several stories at the same time, but to avoid confusion, I generally avoid writing more than one new story at the same time (apparently you don't feel conflicted about this).

I'm tempted to jump ahead, and at least write the initial couple chapters of another story, but I'm trying to finish up the final chapters of my outstanding chapter first (so I can start revising it, adding to my revision/editing worklist).

Back when I first started, I had a single story, but I knew it would take a while to finish. I started with "The Catalyst", which I then planned on being 3 books (it's now 6), though I ended up revising the entire series in order to accomplish that, changing from first person to 3rd person omni.

You do what the story demands, regardless of what you originally intended.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


(apparently you don't feel conflicted about this).


CW, the way I work is I first think of something and then think it may make a good story; I call these things Story Yeast. Then I work out more of a plot. Typically (but not always) I end up with a start, a finish, some in between key points, and then have to write the rest of the story to link them together. Sometimes I've got the start of a story but not yet an end I'm happy with. Thus I have many part stories while I let my mind work on them. When something comes up that can fit in I add it to the story until I get the story done. Sometimes the story will blossom in my mind as a whole and it's written quickly.

A common event is I've the key points of the story and when I do the research to make sure I get the background right I find extra things to add to the story to give it more flavour and make it richer.

Often I'll work on a story and hit a brick wall with it because I've got to a scene I can't make come out in a way I'm happy with it. Instead of bashing my head on the wall I put it aside and look at one of the other part stories, I'll read that and will continue if inspired, or try another if not. Some days life events get me down and I stop working on a story, so I go to work on another one when I get writing again.

When writing Ed's New Life, my first published story, I had other stories popping into my mind, so I'd cut away, type what's there into another story yeast file, then go back to Ed while it's fresh in my mind. When I hit a block I'd go work on one of the other stories and come back. Since I started writing the second half of 2015 is my longest dry spell because everything is new since then and I'd no backlog of stories to work on until I created one.

............

yes, you do what the story and the characters demand, but when you're not happy with the demand I find it good to be able to back off and look for why the demand is there. Then I either agree the demand must be met, or what created it should be amended to remove it. This is when being able to go back and change earlier stuff is great if removal is the best answer for the story overall.

Another thing that sometimes comes up is the copycat story this is where you've taken a story to a point and then you're torn between going down different paths, so you end up writing the same basic story with it diverging at different points. The same basic plot, and many similar scenes, but two stories with two endings or paths.

edit to add: Different people write in different way, you have to find what works for you and then use it to your best ability.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Typically (but not always) I end up with a start, a finish, some in between key points, and then have to write the rest of the story to link them together. Sometimes I've got the start of a story but not yet an end I'm happy with. Thus I have many part stories while I let my mind work on them. When something comes up that can fit in I add it to the story until I get the story done. Sometimes the story will blossom in my mind as a whole and it's written quickly.

We've discussed this before, and we work in a similar manner. I'll often let a story sit for months, as I work out how to make it work before I ever type a word. Like you, I'll have the beginning, an ending and various way points, but not all the connecting details. Often, I'll only know what happens next when I lay my head on the pillow and the next chapter's events play out in my mind. The ending of "Catalyst" is a prime example. I knew from when I first started that the MC would eventually die, I just didn't know how. It wasn't until I was wrapping up the second to last book that I figured out that detail, and I only fleshed it out as I got to it.

I'm not criticizing your technique, just stating that, so far, I've been unable to concentrate on writing two different stories at the same time. I'm not saying I couldn't, only that I don't trust myself to keep them separated. But, at any time, I have multiple stories playing out in my head, and I'll be simultaneously working on multiple plots. It's the putting the words in order that trips me up. I'm afraid typing out two different adventures at the same time will keep me from focusing on one fully. However, one of these days I need to try it to see how it works out.

By the way, it's been a long time since I've posted a story, but I've yet to hit a dry spell since I started writing several years ago. I get disillusioned, especially if I have to abandon or reject a story already in progress, which will shut down my creativity, but those moments pass as new ideas and new inspiration carries me forward. But what always saves me, if figuring out what the story was missing before, and then correcting it so the story works as it was designed.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I've been unable to concentrate on writing two different stories at the same time.


CW, I think that's where we differ. I don't concentrate on two stories at once. I always concentrate on the story I'm actually writing. However, when I hit a block with it I put it aside, put it from my mind, and go look at another one. When I find one where my muse can work on it I concentrate on that story until it's either finished or I hit a block on it and put it aside.

Think of it like a building contractor with a number of spec houses he's building. He's working on the brick walls for house one when the rain starts. You can't do bricks well in the rain, so he leaves that house and goes to house three where he can work inside on the electrical work. He gets to a point he can't go ahead without more fitting, but they have to be ordered in. So he leaves house three and starts on the carpentry work on house two. When he runs out of the carpentry work the rain is over and he can go back to the brickwork on house one.

I never really reject or abandon a story, I put it aside for later. Sometimes I find a way to go forward, sometimes I find I can use part of it in another story. There's one story I had major issues with, it's still sitting there unfinished, but parts of it have turned up very useful in six other stories - copy and paste, massage, and there's a few scenes for another story, sometimes a whole chapter.

The trick, for me, is to be able to push a story aside and let it alone until the back of my mind works out how to make it work. I distract myself by working on something else. I know some other people who work the same way, and others who can't understand it at all.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The trick, for me, is to be able to push a story aside and let it alone until the back of my mind works out how to make it work. I distract myself by working on something else. I know some other people who work the same way, and others who can't understand it at all.

I guess for me, putting a story aside--for whatever reason--is a traumatic event which itself sends me into a tailspin. While I'll sit on a story indefinitely, until I decide on how to approach it, once I start, I like to stick with it until I complete it.

My darkest spells as a writer, are always when I decide a story isn't working, and I cancel the project, or even push back a planned release date. Then I become unable to focus on new stories, floundering for a way forward. Often, the only way out is to figure out what went wrong with the story, and fixing that one element, which invigorates me and pushes me into creative overdrive again.

Perv Otaku

@Crumbly Writer

In that case, you need to focus on when to divide a story into multiple books. By limiting the scope of each book, you can finish one, while leaving the others for later. I think a problem with many newbie authors is trying to tell an encyclopedic stories all in one pass. They end up feeling overwhelmed and aren't sure where to end it.


It wasn't really that long of a story (38k words). The reason it took so much time to write was I only got around to it once in a while. And there was no worry about knowing how to end it, I had the whole thing worked out in my head before I started putting words to screen.

I would be amazed if I ever write a story that's much longer than 50k words. These days I have extensive notes on future story ideas, that I add to as ideas hit me, while I continue to crank away with the actual writing on whichever the current project is.

Pars001

crap I just write as the muse takes me. though I have to say I just write the chapters 'til the story is done I guess that is sequentially but then again I am working on 5 or 6 stories at the same time (then again I am strange). Plus I have 1 story on hold as the theme is so far from what I have written before it would completely through me off (though I have about 5 paragraphs in it)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Pars001

Plus I have 1 story on hold as the theme is so far from what I have written before it would completely through me off

That's a common problem when working on multiple stories at once, where the themes and focuses tend to overlap. But, in your case, that sounds like the perfect opportunity to post it (the new story) under a pseudonym, rather than your own, if you think your readers may not appreciate the differences in approach.

But what I was getting at are the many online postings by authors about how they'll write specific scenes/chapters out of sequence, and then go back and tie them together. That approach has always struck me as odd, and I was wondering how universal it was. There are also the cases where the story itself is non-sequential, which further complicates things.

Replies:   Perv Otaku
G Younger

Sequentially. I organize my stories via a chapter summary and then map it out on a calendar first. My writing is very much train of thought. I have a general idea of what I want to have happen but no idea how it will happen until I write it.

With that said I sometimes find I have an idea that needs to be incorporated earlier in the story. So I have to go back and add it. That is the main reason I write the whole story before I post. Putting it out to the public kind of puts it into stone and I can't fix it. As a side note - my editors hate it!

G Younger

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@G Younger

that said I sometimes find I have an idea that needs to be incorporated earlier in the story. So I have to go back and add it. That is the main reason I write the whole story before I post. Putting it out to the public kind of puts it into stone and I can't fix it. As a side note - my editors hate it!

That's what the revision process is for. It's not uncommon to have to patch plot holes along the way--though they're more often pointed out by editors. But it's when the story is finished, and you finally understand where the story goes, and which points need emphasizing and which plot points are dead ends, that you can refine how the story is written and presented.

As far as not being able to go back and fix things, I was talking to another author (of a single novel) about Indie publishing, and she expressed surprise when I said one of the benefits of Indie publishing was the ability to make changes. I then pointed out that, in one book, I revised an already published story two separate times, trying to work out the kinks. The first, I tried to temper the lead character's more obnoxious traits (which were intended to be intriguing), the second was when I reorganized the first four chapters, changing how the story was presented to readers.

Sometimes, the revision process extends beyond the first pass review of the entire book and extends past the initial publication.

I've also reconsidered titles and covers, having to re-publish books until a new ISBN. In one case, I didn't do that, and have always regretted it ("Love and Family During the Great Death", which I always wanted to retitle "Clinging to Hope as the World Falters"), and another when I did, retitling the hard to find "Stranded" as "Stranded in a Foreign Land").

Clinging to Hope cover.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

The little blond on the cover is named Hope? They are holding hands, but I am not sure that is "clinging".

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

The little blond on the cover is named Hope? They are holding hands, but I am not sure that is "clinging".

Smart ass!

The survivors of the catastrophe are "clinging to hope". (She's gonna be one busy little girl!)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer


The survivors of the catastrophe are "clinging to hope". (She's gonna be one busy little girl!)


and her sisters Faith and Charity aren't around to help out.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

and her sisters Faith and Charity aren't around to help out.

Ha-ha. At least in my books, Faith won't be showing up anywhere!

Perv Otaku

@Crumbly Writer

But what I was getting at are the many online postings by authors about how they'll write specific scenes/chapters out of sequence, and then go back and tie them together.


I do lots of story planning that way, but I do try to have it all figured out before the actual writing begins.

Though lately I've found myself jotting down dialogue for key scenes way ahead of time, just because it's kicking around in my head and I think I've struck upon the perfect version of it. Sometimes I do this multiple times for the same scene and have to combine the best of the various versions when it comes time to actually write the scene.

QM

I write sequentially, however I think episodically and keep numerous notes as reminders, a good few of which reach my tales.

Penguintopia

Generally, I develop a character concept and let them take the story where they want it to go. I have an endpoint in mind, but how I get there all depends on the characters...

Bondi Beach

@Ernest Bywater

I've done both methods. It depends on how the muse strikes me.


Me, too. Except that I'm struggling with a story written episodically and no matter how many times I diagram out what happened when, I'm left with stuff left over. Forget that nonsense about "If it doesn't fit get rid of it." It's going in even if I have to bolt it down.

bb

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

Forget that nonsense about "If it doesn't fit get rid of it." It's going in even if I have to bolt it down.


Heck, I often pack it away for a while, scrub the names and numbers, then use it as the basis for another story that's similar but different or a sequel.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Except that I'm struggling with a story written episodically and no matter how many times I diagram out what happened when, I'm left with stuff left over. Forget that nonsense about "If it doesn't fit get rid of it." It's going in even if I have to bolt it down.

Oddly, I've never felt the need to recycle bit I've dumped from stories, or to recycle scenes from stories I've scrapped. I guess my stories are each unique enough that what works (or doesn't) in one won't fit into the others. What's more, if it doesn't work, I'm not especially eager to see whether it'll break another story!

KimLittle

On "Off The Deep End", I'm currently writing as I'm posting, so I'm only really 2-3 chapters ahead, even though I know exactly where the story ends and what the shape leading up to it will be. I have mentioned in response to some feedback that I will probably do a rewrite and maybe tone down the explicitly of the under-18 sexy stuff to YA levels and try that as an eBook. I don't think that rewriting everything to make the characters 18 from page 1 would work.

I am also working on another story (started working on the first section recently), and it covers a specific six month period in the antagonists life, so I'm hoping to write six 10-12000 word chunks and put them on Amazon as individual eBooks and as a collection.

I also have three spec-fiction pieces going which will end up going under another name.

Again, I have started and lost enough pieces of writing to not want to start a story without a clear idea of the beginning, end and 2-3 points of conflict to get the first draft down.

Because I will be charging folks money for that, I will not be posting anything until it's fully completed, rewritten, edited.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@KimLittle

I am also working on another story (started working on the first section recently), and it covers a specific six month period in the antagonists life


Sounds a little like Banadin's Richard Jackson saga. The Summer vacations are shorter than six months and the school years are closer to nine.

Replies:   KimLittle
KimLittle

@richardshagrin

This one covers a uni student's time abroad, so the story arc begins at the start of their trip and finishes at the end.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@KimLittle

a uni student? Last I heard Rick is between 9th and 10th grade.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

a uni student? Last I heard Rick is between 9th and 10th grade.

They're thinking European Universities, not American Universities. Using the European model, it's more like a private high school, while in American a University is simply a humongous college.

KimLittle

Rick is in 9/10th grade.

The story I mentioned that I am writing is about a Uni student. And here in the antipodes, university is college.

richardshagrin

I guess in the antipodes a protagonist is an antagonist. Other posters favor MC for main character or hero or sometimes heroine if female. Misspelling heroine as heroin may be a drug reference or her preference. Patience and perseverance made a Bishop of His Reverence. Makes no sense in the context of this post, but it rhymes. Lots of my posts are stream of consciousness. Assuming I am conscious. Assume makes an ass out of u and me. Which is why royalty assumes the throne. Pro and con are opposites, which is why Congress is the opposite of Progress. Say goodnight Gracie. Goodnight Gracie.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
JohnBobMead

@richardshagrin

Lots of my posts are stream of consciousness.


This explains a lot!

Back to Top