People often ask me questions regarding my writing style, process, etc. Whenever we talk about writing, there is process and there are principles. While the principles for storytelling are relatively universal, the process will vary from person to person and also, at least in my experience, from book to book.
Some people outline and “plot out” their stories and others listen to the story as they write each day, feeling out the direction of the story organically. Since I’ve described the organic writing process in other posts, let’s not go there for now. You can go back and read those posts later. But no matter your process, I think it is important to write the ideas you have when they are fresh in your mind—even if they are not specifically chronological.
When I’m working on a story, I might know that in a certain place in my book my detective will visit a crime scene and notice what no one else notices, but it might take me weeks or months to figure out exactly what that is. So in the meantime, while I wait for just the right inspiration, I write obligatory scenes that the story and the genre dictate.
For example, in the book I’m currently writing, I’m about 80 or 90% done, but I have no clear idea about how the climax will play out. As I’ve written, I’ve worked on scenes that I knew I was going to include, and some transitions or interludes between the scenes themselves. In some cases I know that something must be altered—or tilt as I sometimes think of it—but I’m not sure exactly what that is. But it will come if I continue to look at context and press the right questions against the fabric of the story. So, as I now add those scenes and transitions, I can look at the story as a whole and that will lead me to just the right climax and ending.
To summarize, I believe it’s best to pursue your ideas where they take you. Write yourself into a corner as much as you can and then find a way out your readers would never expect. Keep moving through the story, sometimes that will mean moving ahead without figuring exactly what will happen in a scene and then dropping the scenes in later, sometimes it’ll mean you figure them out as you move along. Be flexible. Be open. And keep an ear out for what the story is trying to tell you.