Jessica McCann is the author of the award-winning novel, All Different Kinds of Free. Inspired by a true story, the novel follows Margaret Morgan, kidnapped in 1837 along with her free children and sold into slavery. And on a personal note, Jessica is one of the coolest, warmest writers on the planet. I'm thrilled to have her here on my blog. And you can follow her on twitter and facebook atTwitter: @JMcCannWriter
Thank you, Jessica.
When doing jigsaws, I would try to work the edges first. I really would. But then, what’s this here? Could it be part of an elbow? Maybe it’s an ear. And what about this piece? It has the same peachy hue, maybe it goes with this one. Ah ha! Little by little, section by scattered section, the big picture would eventually come together. Inevitably, the final piece to snap into place would be some flat-edged rascal that seemed to be lost until the very end.
My writing generally takes shape the same way. Even for the shortest magazine article, I struggle with sticking to an outline. A quote jumps out at me. An anecdote begs to be fleshed out. A statistic yearns to be researched. Then all the pieces get shifted and rearranged again and again, until the big picture finally materializes. The opening paragraphs are usually the last thing I write.
Multiply that by about a hundred, and you have a pretty good idea of how I wrote my first novel -- little by little, scene by scattered scene, until the last plot point finally snapped into place. ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF FREE was inspired by actual events. It tells the story of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color in 1830s America whose perfect life was shattered when she was kidnapped and forced into slavery. It took me a good five years to figure out all the plot points, to write and assemble all the scenes and chapters of the book. And the first scene I wrote, the one I thought would be the opening scene, ended up somewhere in the middle.
Freelance writer and memoir author Jessica Handler also thinks it's OK write out of order. In fact, she encourages it.
You can put the story in the right order later.