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  1. #1
    Any way the wind blows... Colossus's Avatar
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    Jun 2002

    Writing Style: Linear or Non-Linear?

    For those of you who have a novel or two under your belt I would like to know if your style is to write the story linear, that is start writing at the beginning of the story all the way through to the end, or to write scenes or sections randomly, slowly filling in the gaps.

    Let me know what advantages/disadvantages either style poses for you. Thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    Mar 2001
    As mentioned in one of the other threads, I always write linearly, once I have a basic outline prepared etc. I find that this method suits me best in my role of storyteller, and, doing it this way makes it so much easier to keep tabs on continuity and character development, IMO.

  3. #3
    Barcelona! milamber_reborn's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    Perth, Australia
    I agree with Erebus. I've never really thought of writing non-linear, though it probably has its uses somewhere.

    If you feel like writing different sections of a story, I suggest making extensive notes instead.

  4. #4

    Mostly linear

    About 80% or 90% of what I write is written linearly, without even very much of an outline. However, I'll usually have five or six very clear scenes in my head, stretching from the beginning of the novel to the end; also, I can usually see the basic structure of the first 20-25,000 words.

    However...I've written two novels, and both were below the minimum length for a fantasy novel. So I'm having to expand, not just by throwing in a few adjectives here and there, but by adding new scenes and plot lines.

    I think that I'm getting much better at writing to a specific length, but until I can do it reliably, I'm going to have to write large chunks nonlinearly.

    For me, there are two big problems with nonlinear writing, although it is best for some people.
    1--Butterfly effect. You give a throwaway comment in a paragraph, and suddenly it spins off a new part of the background, a minor change of thoughts, new feelings, a betrayal, a plot twist. If you've already written several scenes that come later, you may either have to throw them away or rewrite them, or ignore the better story that would have resulted from incorporating those changes.
    2--Boredom. This is simple. If you skip the boring scenes when you're writing, then you'll have to come back to those boring scenes someday. I would rather have a few exciting scenes to look forward to as "bait" to push on through the "boring" scenes (and try to make them as exciting as I can anyway).

    But, when I write nonlinearly, there's one big reason for that--research. For me, it would stall the narrative to go do three months of research on medieval battles, or the nesting habits of eagles, or foxes in Japanese legend. And I often don't realize what I need to know until I get there. So it's more convenient for me in those cases to rush through something very unrealistic or "insert battle scene here" or "look up if these seasons are plausible for eagle nesting," and come back to it later.
    I have to put down *something*, usually, but my "nonlinear writing" is revision--I often have scenes that are so badly done that, after I'm finished the novel, nothing short of tearing out the scene and starting over will fix them. So my "final version" ends up being about half scenes I wrote linearly, and half scenes that I went back and wrote from scratch during the revision, which were much improved by things I learned as I wrote later scenes.

  5. #5
    Ancient Member Bardos's Avatar
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    Nov 2000
    I write linear. I don't think I could write non-linear, for, though I have a general idea in my head about what's going on in the story, I truly make it up as I go. I think it's writen more realistic this way -- not to mention it's more fun for the writer, who discover what'll happen next, and surprises even himself!

    But, I have that really "weird" habit to form "posible plot-lines" in my twisted mind. When I am in a certain point in a story, all these thousands of possible what-will-happen-next come to mind. Scenes pass before my mind's eye again and again, many scenes. Then, when I finaly reach the scene I think about, usually, NONE of the scenes I imagined come true! (I'm I not nuts, or what?) The characters and the story tell my what should be writen, and I obey. (They the masters, me the slave. )

    When I have finished a story, I think about all the possible plot-lines and scenes I've imagined, and I find it funny that I EVER could think about that things could go that way!

    Does this happen to anyone else?...

  6. #6
    Senior Member Pirate Jenn's Avatar
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    Jul 2002
    I've done both linear and non-linear and, right now, I'm liking non-linear better. Sometimes, because of later scenes I've written, earlier scenes come to my mind explaining this or I write them. The book I'm finishing, now, was very scattered but, each time I write or begin an "edit cycle" (combing front to back), I begin at the beginning and continue through to the end, adding scenes and description as I go. I find that this method has made the work extremely detailed and real feeling. I mean...sometimes there come scenes where a character is very angry and I have no idea I skip back a ways and start writing until I figure it out.

    I've had to re-work a few scenes, but not very many. Also, as I've only written the "exciting" parts, there are no boring or unecessary parts. Sometimes, in skipping ahead, my brain figures out what needs to Bring A from point B to C.

    But, then....I'm a naturally scattered person (you should see the migratory patterns of mail in my house ::shudder:

  7. #7
    Lovin' Upriser Lifino's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    I've seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I'm on my way!
    sure, it's not writing, but the reading was writen at some point...

    I always look back with deep appreciation for Brust's Jhereg series. Each of the first few books happens at different points in the time line (meaning the first two or three chapters you are trying to figure out when the story is) After completing the second book, which takes place prior to the first, I was impressed with the way it tied together some of the story. It made it seem as though he had all the detail planned out years in advance...

    Then again it's been 6-7 years since I've read it, perhaps the years added some mistyque to the books. I imagine that if I went back to reread them I'd be disappointed...

    BTW, very interesting and intertaining characters too...


  8. #8
    Any way the wind blows... Colossus's Avatar
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    Jun 2002

    Where in Ohio are you at? I'm east of Cleveland.
    Last edited by Colossus; July 16th, 2002 at 08:43 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Talaith's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Far, far from home...

    Yes! The same thing happens to me! When I am writing a story is a very simliar experience to when I am reading a story. I will have a rough idea of how the story will progress, but the twists and turns the story takes along the way are often surprises for me.

    In one of my stories I planned on having my characters search a starship that was dead in space. That was all I had in mind for that section of the story, but once I started writing it ideas kept flowing into my head. I was exploring the ship in my imagination I wrote about it. I ended up with three chapters worth of writing, but my chapters tend to be on the short side.

    It backfires sometimes though. Every now and then I write myself into a dead end and have to backtrack along the story to find where I made the wrong turn. Then I go off and write along a different line of thought.

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