Some writers can tell the story straight through in the right order, the first time out of the starting gate.  So far as I can tell, they see the end state of the plot waiting up ahead of them like the finish line, and once they start writing they drive on toward it.

I envy these people, because I am one of the other ones — the writers who see the story bit by bit, one component scene at a time, and not always in the right order.  For us, the finished novel often resembles not the record of a straight race to THE END, but a box full of brightly-colored beads that must be strung together in a way that makes sense.

Figuring out how to do the stringing, though, can be interesting.  Both Word and WordPerfect have Master Document functions that allow a series of files to be chained together into one long document, but when it comes to figuring out the actual order of those files, the user is on his or her own.  More than once in the past, I’ve had to resort to writing one-or-two sentence summaries of the files’ content on 3×5 cards, then physically laying out the cards in different orders and arrangements until I’ve found one that works.

Recently, though, I’ve taken to using Scrivener for my initial draft work, because its functionality emulates in electronic form what I used to do with those 3×5 cards.  It lets me work on individual scenes or chapters, and allows me to move them around and re-order them at will, and then will compile them into a single file for saving in a variety of formats.

(Then I take the large, compiled file over into WordPerfect for final editing and formatting, because they will take away my Reveal Codes window when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.)