Pros and Cons of Writing Stories Chronologically

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When you sit down to write a story, do you start from the beginning and work your way through to the end? Or do you skip around, writing some of the middle, the end and a few lines of the opening scene all in one sitting?

Is there a right or wrong way to construct a story? Really, it depends on your preference and which parts of the story you want to focus on.

While there isn’t necessarily a better way to write—chronologically or completely out of sequence—there are pros and cons to correspond with both sides. We’ve decided to review some of them, and want to give you the chance to tell us how you write and which method works best for you.

Pro: working your way up to the plot points you’re excited about

If you’re a writer who tends to run low on motivation as your stories progress, one way to self-motivate is to hold off on writing the parts of a story you’re most looking forward to until they line up chronologically. Or, in other words, working your way through the prose leading up to your story’s key plot elements.

Con: trudging sloppily through story elements you’re not ready to write

This strategy, however, can lead to unintentional, yet obvious sloppy work. Enthusiastic about certain parts, but much less thrilled about a boring-in-comparison lead-in exchange of dialogue can turn into multiple pages of work that might need to be scrapped and rewritten when the time comes for serious revisions.

Pro: challenging yourself to write the way you read

Sometimes writers need to create their own methods to keep themselves entertained as they work. If you need a good challenge, you can always try writing the way you (hopefully) read—from beginning, to middle, to end, without skipping to the good parts (if you do this when you read, please lie; we don’t want to know. Just kidding). It’s hard. But it could make for an interesting series of blog entries, too.

Con: going off on tangents, unnecessary fluff

If you don’t know where you’re headed, and you’re challenging yourself to keep moving forward anyway, you might end up with a lot of extra words you don’t end up needing when the story’s full outline does come to form. This can be a good way to practice trimming down your own work, but it does make for extra time and, if you’re working on deadline, a lot of stress and frustration.

Pro: more realistic character development

It’s common to develop right along with your characters. As they become more real and human in your mind, of course they’ll come across the same way in your story and to your potential readers. If you write from beginning to end, even without trying, the progress of your characters’ growth will by default appear more realistic. 

Con: forgetting details you added earlier on

This can be as minor as how to spell a character’s name or as major as creating a series of unintentional plot holes. Skipping around, you can write out different pieces of your puzzle at various stages all at once. Writing in ‘chronological order’ story-wise, you might include something in the beginning and forget about it by the time something related comes up later on.

Each pro and con on this list has its accompanying pluses and minuses, but in the grand scheme of literary insanity, there are going to be positives and negatives no matter the method you choose. What really matters is you develop the various skill sets necessary to conceive, write and revise the stories you feel the most connected with.

It’s a process. No matter where in the story you begin, hopefully at some point, you’ll find a place to end, too.

Now it’s your turn. How do you write your stories? Chronologically? The opposite? Do you have pros and/or cons to add to our list? Leave a comment. Tweet @MegDowell with your responses. Let’s agree to disagree. Let’s start a conversation.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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