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Writing Backwards

25 Jul

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” ― T.S. Eliot

At retreat last month a friend of mine was feeling stuck at a point in the middle of her manuscript. A fellow writer suggested that she try writing out the end of the story to see if that would help give her some direction. She tried it and it worked.

I recently found my own manuscript stalling and decided to give this approach a try. It turns out that this little snippet of advice happened to have a profound effect on my writing process. I have to admit that I’m still working through whether I’m a pantster, plotter, or somewhere in between. I don’t think it matters though. In the romance genre the ending is obviously going to be a happy one but I found it to be amazingly helpful to start at that point.

I had a vague idea of what my ending was going to be like but actually writing it out gave my story a renewed purpose. It has kept my scenes lean and focused by eliminating a lot of the fluff I had created while meandering somewhat aimlessly through the plot. Now I know that every scene I write advances the story in the right direction. I’ve heard it referred to as “connecting the dots” too. You write a beginning and an ending before connecting them with everything in between.

Something else that this approach helped me with was torturing my characters. I usually have a hard time subjecting them to various tribulations because I want them to be happy. By writing their future first, it helped me visualize how the trials they endure will make it all worth it when they are awarded a happy ending. It solidified how much my characters would need to grow from beginning to end.

Have you tried this approach? Does it work for you?

 
13 Comments

Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Idaho

 

13 responses to “Writing Backwards

  1. Janis McCurry

    July 25, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    I haven’t tried it, but remember the tip from retreat. It is something I’ll keep in my arsenal. Thanks, Jenn.

     
    • Jennifer

      July 25, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      Janis, I actually thought you may have been the one to mention it but I couldn’t remember for sure.

       
      • Corina Mallory

        July 25, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        It was Janis! And I’m the one who got kicked in the butt and told to write my damn ending. It really did help, for all the reasons you named. I’ve managed to keep a steady (but very very slow) progress since retreat, and part of that is because I know exactly what my characters need to be like in another (mumble, cough) words to get the ending they deserve.

         
        • Jennifer

          July 25, 2013 at 11:29 AM

          lol! I was thinking it was Steph that went straight to the end. Apparently, the advice kicked all three of us in the butt🙂

           
  2. Judith Keim

    July 25, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Good post, Jenn! Yes, I usually have a story idea, a title, a beginning and an end when I actually start. Does it stay that way? Noooo. I’m definitely a pantser but I do like to know where I’m headed, even if it changes along the way. Thanks for the post…I think I’ll try it on the book I’m trying to plot now.

     
    • Jennifer

      July 25, 2013 at 8:53 AM

      Judith, you’ll have to let me know how it works out for you.

       
  3. Jess

    July 25, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Jen always has good advice. thanks for this!

     
    • Jennifer

      July 25, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      Jess, thanks for checking out my blog!

       
  4. maryvine

    July 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Good advice, Jennifer, and I think a new one for me. I’m like Judith, I think I’ll use it on my work in progress.

     
    • Jennifer

      July 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      I can’t wait to hear if it works for you Mary. Let us know!

       
  5. Lynn Mapp

    July 26, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Thanks Jenn, I am spinning my wheels. I’m going to give this a try. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

     
  6. MK Hutchins (@mkhutchins)

    July 27, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Excellent post. Sometimes I have the ending from outlining, sometimes I blunder through a first draft and then revise a lot — but it’s not until I have an ending in place that I really know what needs to be in the rest of the book.

     
  7. Peggy Staggs

    August 13, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    As a mystery writer I have to know the end before I start. It makes the journey much easier if you know where you’re going.

     

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