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!

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