An ex-boyfriend once told me. But what did he know? So far, he hasn't written a novel like a novel either.
I spent much of the day working on severing my "novel" into two parts: one dated and one undated. The "dated" portion is made up of specific fictional events (which I have, conveniently enough, dated) which have been lined up in the order in which they occur. The "undated" portion is all the stuff that happens sometime, but no time in particular. (Before this event? After that one? Who knows?) Lots of interesting conversation, even some -- dare I say? -- character development. But not integrated in a linear fashion.
So far, maybe a fifth of the manuscript (50-some of 300+ pages) is in some kind of order, and thus I know how these sections relate to each other in time. Now the challenge will be making sense of the remainder. Within this mass, there are various subplots, so the next step will be teasing out those subplots, and plugging them into some relationship with the, shall we say, "spine" of the story. Yeee, that sounds pretentious!
Then all the little things that build off one another, getting them in the correct order, between the bigger set pieces.
It's really hard to maintain that sense of the world going on between the big narrative events; you know, weeks pass here, and get skimmed over. That's where I really wander off into the ether. When I have things really focused on the detail of this one place and time, that stuff is pretty strong. But I like a lot of the more amorphous material, I just don't know -- where it goes!