Writing is a glorious creative adventure wherein your imagination is free to roam infinite universes, but it’s also a craft and a skill. As the latter, sometimes it can get a bit … well, boring‘s not the right word. Familiar, maybe? The first time you pull off some literary trick it’s exciting. When you’ve written 600 short stories and twenty-five novels, some of your own bag of tricks get a little been-there, if you know what I mean.
Shaking things up is necessary from time to time. Working in a new, unfamiliar genre, or changing up your process can be remedies to a certain malaise that can set in. I’ve always been mystified by writers who act like their process is somehow an unchangeable fact of the universe, as if changing the schedule and mechanics of their writing will somehow result in disaster. I myself get into deep, comfy ruts when it comes to schedule and mechanics, but I also try to occasionally challenge myself and get out of that comfort zone—like writing a novel as a series of novellas, for example. Recently, I find myself contemplating a decentralized style of writing a novel.
I’m usually a pretty linear writer; even when my story jumps around in time or is otherwise complex, I start at the beginning of my story and proceed A—Z from there in the order that I conceive of the story. That’s how my brain works, so that’s how I write.
I have an idea for a novel right now that’s going to involve a frame story of sorts and then some individual episodes. Normally, as I said, I would start at the beginning and just go forward from there, but this time, for whatever reason, I want to try something different, so I’m going to just randomly write sections of the book until I’m done. Instead of starting with what would be Chapter 1 and moving forward linearly, I’m going to maybe start by writing Chapter 14, then Chapter 20, and so on.
Why? Why not? But mainly I want to keep things fresh and try something new. There’s such low stakes with little tricks like this, there’s almost zero reason not to try things once in a while in an effort to shake up your own complacency. Worst case scenario? I give up and restart with a more traditional approach to process. Or maybe I go insane and start wandering the neighborhood in a robe, muttering to myself … more often.