M.G. Herron

Writing Out of Order

I was reading Fiction Unboxed recently and discovered the concepts of Reverse Foreshadowing and Reverse Salting. This idea of writing in reverse is something I recognize in myself and my own way of writing.

When I feel like being honest, I’m the first to admit that my first draft will always need more work, rearranging and cutting and adding new things, so it’s good to see this in other writer’s processes as well.

What is Reverse Foreshadowing and Reverse Salting, and why does it matter? Sean and Johnny’s explanation is bit lengthy, so here’s my attempt at an abbreviated version:

Reverse Foreshadowing is the act of going back to the earlier parts of your story and adding in foreshadowing for events that occur later, and which you failed to plan for the first time through.

Reverse Salting is similar to reverse foreshadowing, but minor. You might reverse salt a unique character trait, like the habit of carrying a sketchbook (their example, not mine), to give an event involving a sketchbook that happens later stronger resonance.

Kameron Hurley, a scifi/fantasy writer, also expressed frustration with a similar technique she uses (is forced to use?) to develop her characters.

I say, you can’t take sides on how much your story benefits when you make a character more compelling, more human. Who cares what order it happens in?

If you ask me, everyone writes their own way. Is that what they mean by “find your voice?” More than voice. Process. Technique. Timing. Maybe some famous scribe out there wrote a perfect story the first time around. That’s not most people. I’d venture to say that most people don’t write anything perfect the first time through. I certainly don’t.

Kristine Katherine Rusch offers thoughts on a related process on her blog:

Since I do write out of order, one thing this experience has convinced me of is this: I’m never putting up a novel in progress. Imagine me writing a scene where a character rushes in to save the day, and I haven’t even introduced that character yet. Oh, yeah, I’d say. You guys have to trust me. I’ll write a new chapter 2, move the current chapter 2 to chapter 3 and….arrrrrgh! [source]

Her point is a sidebar, but she hits the nail on the head. Recognizing you write out of order is one way to play to your strengths. Unlike life, in writing you get a second and third draft to fix your mistakes.

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