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Writing a Book Chronologically Versus Out of Order

Updated on January 25, 2021
Laura335 profile image

I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.


How to write a book

How do you start to write a book? Is there any right way to do it?

The order in which a book is written is one of the many choices that writers make, especially in writing longer pieces. I have heard so many methods from writers over the years. Some use outlines, others make notes first, and some write the entire book out of order.

The greatest books in history were all written in different ways, with different tools, and at different times. When I write a book, the process is always different. So, can there be a right or wrong way to do it? Below I discuss the pros and cons to writing a book chronologically versus out of order.

Writing chronologically

My first book was written entirely in order. This is mainly due to the fact that it started as a short story for a writing class that I took in college, and my teacher convinced me to turn it into a novel. So, the six pages I had written seemed like the best place to start. I just continued building onto the plot from there.

For the first three months that I spent at home between graduating from college and landing my first full time job, I worked on turning my short story into a full middle grade chapter book. I believe that my time off full of dreary winter days to do nothing but write inspired me to write the book chronologically.

With a clear head to worry only about writing and job hunting, I was happy to have a large project to work on. Continuing with one large story idea kept writer's block away because I didn't have to start with a fresh idea everyday. I just had to build on what I already had.

I was often several scenes ahead in my mind, and this kept me focused, completing 3-10 pages per day. However, I didn't know how the book was going to end until I got there. That made me as much of a reader as a writer while composing my first draft. I was surprised by how easily the next brick in the road was paved, how I could connect scenes together with tiny ideas by building on already established moments or characterizations. It really took the intimidation out of writing a novel.

Editing the first draft

Writing a book chronologically makes the editing process a lot easier. It minimizes the continuity or connectivity errors in the book. You also don't have any major blanks to fill in with missing scenes that you may have forgotten about.

While the plot of this book developed naturally and regularly, I have had experiences since where the plot did not flow as smoothly. As a result, it took some major editing to cut the fat from scenes that didn't work as well but felt necessary in order for me to be able to hop to the next section of the plot.

Hand edits

Editing by hand.
Editing by hand. | Source

Writing Out of Order

My second book was written entirely out of order. This came after getting stuck early on in the drafting process but having a scene in the back of my head that I wanted to write later into the plot. So, when I was having a blocked day, I took it upon myself to skip ahead and write that scene. This kept me producing new pages regularly without having to climb the hurdle of coming up with connecting scenes until I was ready.

This was a fun way to write because I always had an idea for a scene in my head. So, I got to write the scenes I wanted on the days I wanted. Though this approach was the opposite of what I'd done the first time, it worked best for me with my current schedule and with that particular story.

Assembling the puzzle

Once the frame of the story was worked out, these scattered scenes became a giant crossword puzzle that I had to put together. Typing up my handwritten pages was a messy process.

I was constantly scanning the Word document for the best place to insert each scene. Continuity was a huge obstacle in the editing process, and I lost a good 10 pages to it (which I realize is minuscule compared to some writers’ throwaway scenes).

Once finished, a lot of my edits were done right on the computer with maybe one run through with a hard copy and the nitpicky red pen. This method proved to be time consuming in the end, but it got me through my first draft easier than it would have had I forced myself to come up with scenes in the order that they appear in the book.

The result is my favorite story that I have ever written. However, I haven't written using that method since this book.

Combining methods

My third book was written in a combination of both methods. The first draft was handwritten during the week and then typed up on the weekends where I could edit as I typed. However, it was written entirely in order.

Many factors dictate the writing process: time, mood, technology, and education. We writers are an indecisive bunch despite the decision-making skills required in our line of work. In the end, my advice is to do what’s best for you in your situation and with your skill set. Whether it works or not, if you feel the urge to change your method, change it. Ultimately, it’s your time, it’s your story, and it’s your call.

How have you written (or plan to write) your books?

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