If Walls Could Talk: Is a Story Linear or a Ball of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Whimey Stuff?

M.H. Norris

One of the hardest things I’m finding with Rosella’s first full-length book is that, for the first time, I’m struggling to write things in order. Usually, I write a story straight from start to finish but this time, I’m finding it hard to do so.

Because transitions are hard. I know what’s at both point A and point B but I’m struggling to figure out how to connect them. Part of it is that I’m excited: I went back to the basics on this one. I’ve really sat down and worked out the mechanics of writing mysteries, wanting to get this one just right.

I plotted and planned and I’ve got scenes coming up in the story that I want to write now and I’m struggling to write the scenes in order.

And, to an extent, I’ve given up on that fight.

I have a handful of scenes written out that need to be worked in. I’ve already worked in a couple and have a few floating in the research portion of my Scrivner document.

A Popular Argument Amongst Writers

Everyone seems to have their own opinion. Before now, I was very much a fan of writing start to finish. But now, I see the appeal of the other approach.

Because there are a couple of scenes where I see them more clearly than I see what’s next in my story. There’s moments that my fingers are itching to write and I might give in and just do it.

One one hand, I see the value of the start to finish approach. Bouncing around a story can cause you to feel a bit disjointed. But on the other side, I wonder if bouncing around might help you with that dreaded writer’s block.

What are your thoughts on it?

Start to finish?


Bounce around and then tie them all together?

With Jazz Street I did the first 12K or so (about 50 pages) from start to finish. That’s where I hit the metaphorical wall and started to bounce a little. Then, I plugged a scene or two in, and wondered if this approach might be better…

One thing I tried to do to help was to take my usual approach. I’d write out a calendar with the events of the book. I have the start, the climax, and the resolution all marked out. Then I’d fill in-between with various events.

With Badge City: Notches this approach wouldn’t have worked, as the bulk of the book took place in the same 72-ish hour period. Hence, why I did things differently: I drew lines that represented each day trying to keep it straight. And someone said I got my math wrong.

Maybe I did, but with as much math as I did that day, I would be surprised.

Sometimes in the column, I give you advice and wisdom from my experience. Today, I’m using it more to sort out my own thoughts on what’s currently going on in my writing career.

Maybe, this will help me figure out where to go next.

But before I go, Let me leave you with this hint. The highly anticipated anthology Speakeasies and Spiritualists, curated by the lovely Nicole Petit, is due out this week. There’s a story written by yours truly in it. Check it out, there’s something in that story that you’ll see again sometime soon.

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