Dear Miss Snark-Clooney, (ha)
I began writing a novel as a senior project in college last year. In the novel the scenes are somewhat disjointed (though there is a flow), and comments from one particular professor say so. That's fine. However, after rereading the draft, I'm beginning to think this professors comments ("When does this take place?" and "How much time has passed?") are irrelevant. Not only because I'm not writing for her, but because the disjointed-ness (is that a word?) of the story lends to the subject matter (mental illness).
As a young, idealistic writer fresh out of a liberal arts college, I feel the flow works for the story. However, I'm concerned readers (agents, publishers, public at large) will find the disjointed-ness (there's that word again) jarring. In your professional opinion, do you find yourself reaching for the nearest lighter if a story doesn't include clues about passage of time (we're not talking huge gaps of time...a few days at most)? Or is the ultimate answer "whatever works for the story"?
You can pretty much do anything weird IF I know ahead of time. This is why your cover letter is important. Tell me the "disjointedness" is on purpose, that you chose it as a motif, and I'll read with an informed eye.
Same if you have a character who speaks incorrect English all the time; you tell me the character has a distinctive grammar style, and I don't reach for the red pen.
On the other hand, you can use captions at the start of the chapter or time shift to great effect.
I have an (unsold) brilliant novel by a very very good writer that uses a twisted chronology to reveal character. His captions are event names (Christmas; Miss Snark's Gin Fest; Killer Yapp's night at the MTV Awards, etc) to ground the event on a timeline. You can bet I mention that in the cover letter and in all my pitches about the book. Of course, I haven't actually managed to sell it yet, but that's another story.