Tuesday Tips – Writing Linear or Non-Linear

For a beginner working on a novel, the question of whether or not to write from page 1 to the end seems like a technicality. The answer to that question can often mean the difference between finishing the project and leaving yet another partial sitting on the hard drive.

Many new writers have trouble coming up with a multi-threaded plot, and even if they do think of one, they have difficulty pulling it off. But then, if the same writer decides to go strictly linear, the potential to get stuck on a specific scene can kill a novel’s momentum. What’s a person to do?

I am very much a linear writer. My novel Rigel Kentaurus has a Y-shaped plot. Two separate story lines converge and merge into one.

I originally began writing sequentially from page 1 to page end, but it wasn’t working. Why not? I was jumping back and forth between story lines, and I couldn’t keep the two branches separate in my mind. One chapter flipped points of view mid-chapter and it remains that way now because fixing it would have required extensive revision and it also seemed to work.

Instead, I wrote one branch of the Y until the junction, then I went back to write the other branch. In past projects I’ve also left large sections of plot blank and jumped to where I did know what happened next. Often by finishing the story, you will be able to back fill because the missing events become obvious. Or you discover you don’t even need the scene.

Next time you get stuck, try jumping to a new point in the story and continue.

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