Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happily Ever After--Write Your Ending First

Ready for NaNoWriMo? Here's a tip to make the next month easy on your time, planning, and imagination: Write your ending first.

Writing the end of my novels and short stories before I write my first page is a trick I've been using for years, and I love it. It's especially helpful for someone like me because I've never really been either a total pantster (someone who freewrites her way through a manuscript as opposed to persnickety planning), or an obsessive outliner. I've always preferred a combination of the two. 

For instance, I like to know who my characters are and what makes them tick in advance of writing a full manuscript, but to get there I still have to freewrite what those traits and motivations are going to be. If I have a pre-written ending that tells me where my characters will be on the last page, complete with dialogue and action, I'll know exactly what they need to do, be, and feel to reach that point. 

Writing my last three to  five pages first has saved me a lot of worry. Here's why:

1.  Writing your ending first gives you a life raft to swim toward. You will always know where you're supposed to go, giving your scenes a sense of forward movement.

2.  When somebody (like an editor) asks what your WIP is about, you will instinctively know the answer based on the tone and mood of your ending.

3.  Many writers (like me) love to write back story, but so often we're told "no back story allowed!" I think this is because so often back story is inserted into the wrong places where it slows the plot down. However, if you have to write your story backwards to explain how you reached your ending, you get to write all the "back story" you can think of--and it's always in the right place because it IS your story!

4.  Writing "The End" first means that technically at least, your manuscript is finished; a nifty psychological ploy to keep you from feeling overwhelmed on the blah-days when it seems your book is going nowhere fast.

5.  Which creates confidence--you know in advance that your story has a strong and satisfying conclusion. No more unfinished manuscripts piling up in your filing cabinet, no more excuses for not sending out those query letters!

Tip of the Day: Even if you have no intention of participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, take some time on Friday November 1 to sit down and write the last five pages of either a new work, or something you've already started. The first time I tried this exercise was with a novella I was playing around with just for fun. What I discovered from writing that final scene before I'd even written Chapter Two completely turned the book around from being a superficial light comedy to a serious story about aging and accepting mistakes with grace. Wow--who'd of thunk it? Happy Nanowrimo-ing!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday To My Blog!

You are invited: to my blog's birthday party!

5 years old! It's my blog's birthday on Monday, October 28; I can hardly believe it. 
To celebrate I'm having a special giveaway just for my followers (thank you, everyone!). 

All you have to do to be eligible is a) follow my blog. Easy-peasy. 
And of course, if you'd like to leave a comment that would be lovely too.

I'll be holding a random drawing on Friday, November 1 (the start of NanoWriMo) at 12.00 PM Mountain Time, so that gives you a whole week to sign up and join the fun.

The giveaway prize will consist of books, journal, and pens--just one winner.
Don't miss out :) In the meantime, everybody eat cake . . .

Friday, October 18, 2013

Autumn Planning

For the last few weeks I've found myself offline much more than usual. I can't help it--where some people suffer from "spring fever" and the inability to stay indoors and concentrate when the first green buds appear on the trees, I have the exact opposite problem: "autumn fever." 

It's been that way all of my life, something to do with the turning leaves, cooler days, an Indian Summer wardrobe that pairs sweaters with cotton skirts, Halloween, Nanowrimo . . . my birthday . . . there's nothing about the season I don't love! 

And even though it's been a long, long time since my student days, I think autumn brings back a remnant of "back to school" determination and renewal to my psyche--all those great plans to accomplish by next semester! I recently read somewhere that deciding to become a writer is like signing up to do homework for the rest of your life. Too true--which is probably why I'm so interested in creating schedules, routines, and self-imposed deadlines; I don't want to mess up my assignments.

With that theme in mind, I've been busy getting ready for the writer's equivalent of term paper and doctoral thesis rolled into one:  revising my next novel. In this respect I've been a little bit like a squirrel hoarding autumn acorns for the winter. Do I have the right supplies? Have I done all my prep? I think so, starting with:

  • A complete first draft with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • First draft fully edited. (Four red pens hit the dust!) Areas that require new scenes and chapters all marked out for new writing.
  • Character names, dates, goals finalized.
  • To keep my characters and story events in order, I've created a "manuscript chart" listing my chapters.  This was important for me to remember both my timeline and to know exactly which characters appear in these chapters, and why. I've also included a section to remind myself why I even HAVE a particular chapter other than because it's so well written, LOL! I figured this last section could also be helpful for marketing and and editorial response, especially in the case of an editor requiring any kind of further rewriting.
So . . . I'm ready to go! Second draft, here I come. But first, I just have to take one more autumn walk with my journal-sketchbook in hand. These leaves are just too pretty to miss.  

Tip of the Day: What projects have you got planned for the winter? What "school supplies" do you need to purchase or make to ensure the work goes smoothly? In my case it was a bigger binder to hold all my revision notes, as well as some new magazine cut-out for those extra sections I need to write. It's good to have everything you need before you begin.