Writing Backwards

Moonday Mania

a blog about writing

As I develop as a romance writer I find that everything changes. When I first started writing paranormal romance I was a dedicated pantser. I wrote the first draft of The Dark Huntsman without much idea of where my story was going. I let my writing meander this way and that—until I had a story. Which, now that I look back, is funny.

For everything else in my world I’m a long term planner. I think in terms of what might be happening in my life years ahead. At any given moment I might be wondering about next month, five years from now, or where we might retire. At the same time I’m working on current stuff about kids, dogs, and writing this year’s steamy romances.

So, if I’m thinking thirty years ahead about my life, why didn’t I do any long term planning with writing my first novel?

I think it’s because it’s difficult to learn what outlining/planning style worked for me. And it seems antithetical to plan something that is so creative. Shouldn’t creativity be instantaneous?

Well, yes and no.

It turns out that The Dark Huntsman wasn’t a stand alone book. I realized while writing it, that it was going to be one of three books about the MacElvy’s and Underhill and the evil queen. Once I realized I was writing a series I had plans for the other books. I had the characters and the fairy tales and a general idea of what was going to go on. But I didn’t outline the entire series. Nor did I outline each individual book until I was sitting down to write it. And that was well after the previous book was finished.

Turns out that that is a difficult way to write a series.

I now plan my writing. It doesn’t mean I’m not creative or don’t create in the moment, or change my plot on a whim. It just means I have a better idea of where I’m going to end up when I’m finished. I now use a combo of the Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson, and a plotting technique called Story Structure, by Dan Wells. They fit nicely together. The Snowflake method is a short way to give myself a scaffolding to hang my plot on, and Story Structure helps me to create that plot.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method has you start with a one sentence overview of your plot and work at enlarging it, piece by piece. It’s a painless way to plot for pantsers. But I found myself trying to create a plot without writing, and sometimes that was difficult for my creative brain. Once I watched Dan Well’s story structure presentation I was able to see where the plot points needed to come from. And he does something unusual. He recommends starting at the end of your story.

That’s right. Decide what you want the ending to be, so that you know where your beginning should be.

In other words, write backwards.

This was a radical idea for me. I’m pretty linear. Sure, when writing, I skip around the parts I have trouble with and come back later to fix, or finish, them, but I’ve always thought you should begin at the beginning and write until you have an ending. Deciding on the ending first was pretty radical.

But beginning at the end works.

Once you know the ending, and you have your beginning, filling in the middle is easy. You are either moving away from one, or toward the other. Now you know what steps you need to fill in those highs and lows in the center of your story.

And it works particularly well for series. I now loosely plot several book together, that way they have more continuity. I’m toying with the idea of even writing all the books in a series before I release them. That way I can go back and forth and connect them even better, just like I do with a single plot book.

I highly recommend you watch all of the videos in Dan Wells YouTube series. And if you have the opportunity to go see either Randy Ingermanson or Dan live, I recommend you do that as well. Randy also has a newsletter he sends out for writers, and it’s full of good stuff on plotting and the state of the industry. You can find all of that at his website, http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/

How do you plot? Do you think it makes a difference to do all your books together? Are you a pantser or a plotter or something in between?



Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft, writing organization

3 responses to “Writing Backwards

  1. Carole St-Laurent

    Great post, Jessica. I love beginning by the end. I heard JK Rowling knew the end of her series in mind when writing the whole thing.

  2. Pingback: Thinking, not writing, is how I start this time | datanode.net

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