1. Lewis shepherd
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    Lewis shepherd Member

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    Starting at the end?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lewis shepherd, Feb 15, 2016.

    Anybody else start at the end of their book and work backwards, I've found this a great way of writing, because I generally know how my story will end, then it's just a case of how do the characters get to that point.

    If you've never done it before I suggest trying it..
     
  2. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I've not, I know how my book will end, and I've started writing the final chapter (I believe jk Rowling did this also) but I started with a chapter introducing my mc. Without it, I would never have know the ending.
     
  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am doing that. What I want to accomplish emotionally and cerebrally in the denouement is practically my entire purpose for writing the book. Makes sense to start there and figure out how best to build up to it.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I've done (am doing) both. My first novel started out with an idea of people and place, and they wrote their own story, which reached an ending that surprised me. However, my second is a sequel, and I know exactly what I want to accomplish. I have already written bits of the ending, just to keep me focused on getting there.

    Both methods can certainly work, but the danger in writing the ending first is that your characters can become devices to reach that ending, rather than evolve into personalities in their own right. I'm lucky in that my characters are already in place and fully developed from my first novel. This is just a continuation of their lives after the ending to the original book.

    If you start with characters and place, and give them a problem to solve, then you solve it along with your characters, don't you? This can open pathways to innovations and solutions you didn't initially see. Your characters will evolve as you write them, and may show strengths and weaknesses you didn't envision at the start. I find this uncertainty exciting. I still want the story to end, of course, but it's almost as if I'm facing the unknown myself as I write it. I have control over what happens at each stage, but I don't see the end until I get there. Or nearly there. I want the solution to feel natural, not forced.

    I don't know that I'd start writing from the back if I was creating wholly new characters and an entirely new situation. Where are the surprises (for the author) if the author already knows the ending?

    I'm not saying there aren't any. I'm just wondering where they would come.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
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  5. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    I'm a hardcore planner so knowing the beginning and the ending (and what happens in between) is essential for me. I'm fine with writing out-of-order, however writing "backwards" sounds a bit too restrictive (just like writing from start to end, which is basically the same thing).

    If I understand right both @Lewis shepherd and @jannert suggest to pick a point in time and without having a strict plot write forward (or backward) using logical reasoning to determine why things happen (cause and effect) and why a given character makes the given decision, driving the plot step by step to (from) a not-too-well determined ending (start). I can see the beauty and value in this but unfortunately this is not how my brain works. I need to see "the big picture" upfront or else I would get lost in the world I create and never come back :)

    The thinking part of writing must be done, it's just the writer's decision when. Upfront = planning , afterwards = editing. I can only imagine (in fear) how much of the latter is needed (and the amount of text cut out) if you are a pantser :)
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's the fear of having to cut lots of text that makes people shy away from being a pantser. And it's not a method that works for everybody.

    However, speaking as somebody who has thrown away roughly half of my initial story, I don't see any of it as a waste of time. In fact, I've kept a few bits I've removed with the intention of using them in a different story. They just ended up as tangents to this one.

    I've planned my present novel to the extent that I not only know the ending, but I know how everybody's going to get there. However, I've lost the sparkle I felt while writing my first novel. I'm just plodding along, getting from A to B with efficiency. I'm not entirely sure how to get that sparkle back. My writing is far more mistake-free than it was the first time, but somehow it's not nearly as much fun.
     
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  7. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I haven't done this successfully. I have tried but I never finished the story. I feel like writing the end is the reward for me working so hard at writing my book, so I don't want to reward myself before I do the work. Also I feel its easier to change things as you go from beginning to end vs. working from the end to the beginning. Also I already have an idea as to how the book will end, and I say "idea" because I know it's subject to changes. But that's personal preferences.
     
  8. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    I kind of skip around, if that's what you mean. If I find myself hitting a wall in prose, sometimes I will shift forward a bit and find somewhere more inspiring to write in the story. 9 times out of 10, muse will return for that skipped bit and write it. If I don't, it probably should have been condensed or cut.

    Never tried starting from the back and working my way forward. I don't know if I can do that and finish a story, but everyone is different. I'm glad you found a way that works for you!
     
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  9. Lewis shepherd
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    Lewis shepherd Member

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    Yeah I generally skip around a bit now I'm in to the meat of the story what I meant and prehaps didn't articulate properly is the first chapter I wrote was the final chapter in book. That's not to say im writing the entire book back to front that would be insanely difficult but rather im starting at and established point time, what I refer to as a fixed point, then I go back and see how those characters got to that point, hope this post makes more sense, my mind was kinda shot when I originally wrote the post..lol
     
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  10. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    My answer is yes and no.

    I always know how it will end, but begin drafting from the beginning.

    In the past when I did screenplays I'd often write later scenes first, but that's different from drafting a novel.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm the exact opposite. I like not knowing how it's going to end -- besides a rough idea of "bad guy gets stopped, these characters are in a different place than they were in the beginning". The other reason is that it helps me to not attempt to steer the story to a particular ending just because it happens to be there, it allows my characters to just go off and do whatever.
     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's how Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. She started with chapter 63, then 62, etc.

    I have to wonder if she knew the chapter numbers in advance.

    I doubt I could write using this approach, but it does capture my imagination.
     
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  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Interesting; I did not know that! <best Ed Mcmahon voice>

    I've heard of knowing the final destination but I've never heard of going literally in reverse the whole way. I doubt I could do it that way either.

    Good question about the chapter numbers. lol ...you're analytical like me. I catch things like that all the time.
     
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  14. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I get what you mean. Yeah when I say 'know the end' I actually mean only in the general sense, like you described here. I don't like the idea of steering the story either. I prefer to keep the process organic, like your reference to allowing characters to go off on their own. I think it's important, or maybe CRITICAL, for a writer to allow that very thing to happen. Like giving a horse his head when riding.

    But I usually fall somewhere in the middle: half outliner, half winging it organically/open ended.

    I like those exercises such as 'interview your character' where you write a convo between you and the character and get him/her talking to you and let them tell you what THEY want to do.

    Moving forward open ended, not knowing, is definitely more exciting IMO because of the discovery process that happens for the writer. It's so fresh.

    But OTOH the down side can be that too much 'organic' leads to the writer becoming lost or meandering too far off course, with a sensation of feeling 'unmoored' and without progress/gains.

    It's probably a trade off. :)
     
  15. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    Yes I agree, it can be easy working your way back to the beginning, than working your way to the finale. I've started a few stories backwards, a bit like the film 'Memento'. I've found the pay off is much more satisfying, to start out with where you know you're going to end up. It's a great suggestion to recommend, I wish I'd have thought to post it first. :)
     
  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write the first draft that way and it gives me ideas for the outline to come. Before the second draft, though, I write a very strict by-the-book logline, plot sketch (my own term), and outline to give the story structure. For me, it's like having the best of both worlds, a pantser's organic process wrapped in a structured story.
     
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  17. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Exactly. Well said. A combo deal! :superagree:
     
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