Notes Of A Storyteller: Jumping Ahead

In winter 2006, my first attempt at the rough draft of The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy) was met swiftly with writer’s block. Eventually, this forced to realize that I didn’t have to write The Quest all the way through. Whatever point in the story I felt like writing, I could write. If I was struggling with one chapter, I could start a new one with an entirely different focus, and still make progress. Delighted by the notion, I exercised it in the spring of 2007 and found myself clipping along very well.

Once I got Arman out of his hometown, it got easier to move forward. Establishing a canonical (pre-conflict existence) is fiendishly difficult. I wrote nine chapters, discarded five of them, and re-wrote significant portions of the rest before I was satisfied. I’m glad I took care of the big chapters before going back into that rock pile. Besides, the chapter I wrote after jumping ahead turned out great. In fact, it remains one of my favorite chapters from The Quest to this day.

Now that I look back on writing The Quest, I wish that I had jumped around even more. As a first-time novelist- worse yet, a teenage novelist who had jumped in head-first without doing his homework- I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. When I got Arman on the move, I spent weeks striving for interesting things for him to do in the cities he visited. If I had jumped around even more, writing about different scenes instead of stubbornly hitting my head against one scene, I might have gotten a better perspective on my story sooner.

It sure would have saved me a lot of re-writing.

That’s why I’m reprising this method for The Stand. I have a much clearer idea of what I’m trying to achieve with this story, but I think the jumping will still help. Yesterday I finished a chapter where Menemaeus reveals something to Arman that makes his life even more miserable than it already is. It’s several chapters ahead of the other ones that I’ve written thus far, but that’s exactly what I want.

Writing that chapter now will give me more confidence when I go back to the earlier chapters. I’ll have an even clearer idea of what mood I need to put on those scenes, to make them lead up to the big denouement that I’ve already written. It’s one thing to have the vision of the denouement in my head; it’s something else entirely to have it on paper already and set in stone.

I’m going to keep this up for the rest of the summer. I might even write all of the biggest chapters first. That denouement chapter came out well. I was so enthusiastic that I posted something yesterday to revel in my pride. That encourages me to keep jumping around. 


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