When I first became inspired to write a book series about King Arthur, I started out by brainstorming and writing down everything I could think of regarding the story and the characters involved. This composted for a number of months. Because my story had historical elements, I also did some research, but not too much.
After that, I wrote a sample chapter, right out of the middle of my book. I picked that spot because:
- I didn’t have to worry about all of the back story.
- I didn’t have to worry about getting that opening paragraph just right.
- That particular series of scenes was especially exciting to me.
So I wrote it out. It was refreshing and gave me some orientation, and the first sense of the voice that I would use in the novel.
After that, I didn’t write again for at least a year. I did a lot more research, honed my outline (via Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method), and fleshed out my characters. Part of the reason that it took me so long is that I was mapping out a potential five book series, and so the research & design of that was very in-depth.
After my outline was done, then I started at the beginning and wrote my prologue (which I am constantly improving), and then moved page by page through the book.
I am now at 62% finished with a projected finish date of July 6th. Yes, this has slipped a month, but now that I have been logging my writing for awhile, it is less likely to change as I have better picture of my average word-count per day.
But the biggest news is that three days ago I made a major milestone!
What was that milestone? I have FINALLY gotten to the point in my novel where I was able to integrate in that “first” out-of-order chapter that I had written two years earlier! It is amazing to see that at least 80% of it was usable.
It is also amazing how little my writing voice has changed. It melded in perfectly with the previous chapter. Now that is not to say that it didn’t need editing! It needed plenty, with many plot related issues, as well as the fact that I have learned how to write more tightly. I still have a tendency to slip into a passive voice, but I am getting a lot better. And the accents! I hadn’t yet figured out how the characters would speak, and so I had to remove a lot of the accent.
So do I recommend writing a chapter “out of the blue” like I did? Emphatically, yes! Even if you are not ready to begin a book in whole, it is a valuable exercise and can give you a proverbial stake in the ground (during all that world-building and research) that you can go back to, re-read, and say, “Yes. Here is the proof. It is real. I can do this.”
Coincidentally, he posted about it on the same day that I began the process of integrating in my own “first chapter”.