Last month I posted about endings, then tried my own suggestion: I wrote a possible final chapter. Once I had it, of course I had to write the scene that would come immediately before it. Then I wrote the scene before that one, and on back, scene by scene, until my ending scenes connected with the chapters I’d written from the beginning.
I had a complete first draft. Finally!
And it was fun to write the story backwards. It was freeing. It was crazy, loose writing—a lot of dialogue—and I admit that the manuscript is now a mess. But a first draft is done. The story now has a shape (an emotional arc) and the characters have come alive, and I can begin to dig deeper into scenes and add sensory details and check for continuity, etc.
The best part is that along the way, I had fun! I got a flow going. I gave myself permission to let go. To relax.
I wrote the mess by hand. Longhand. In a spiral notebook with a gel pen that moves really fast along the page (no resistance). In one week, I filled three quarters of a notebook, and emptied one gel pen and half of a second one, and yes, sure, at times my hand ached. But the ache was worth it. The words flowed and my fear subsided—the fear that I’d never finish this novel, never publish another book.
Next month during back-to-school sales, I’ll buy another ten or twenty cheap spiral notebooks because I’ve now used up the bunch I bought last summer. Do I save the notebooks after I fill them? Lord, no. I transfer the best parts to my computer and throw the notebooks away. The first time I threw one out (years ago), I winced, wondering if I was making a mistake. But then… nah. I let it go and wow—talk about freeing! A weight came off me. And in the process, I think a weight came off my prose, too.
How about you? What do you do to get a flow going?
6 thoughts on “Get a flow going”
Thanks, Anne. I’ve wondered about writing by hand in a notebook and transferring to computer. I usually scratch down a few notes with ideas, then put in computer. But nothing as steady as you’re talking about.
Only one book where I was clear about the ending on page one. I should try writing backwards for more clarity. Thanks!
It’s surprising how much clarity comes with this process! But also a lot of mess. Writers who need a more efficient, orderly process probably would go nuts with this approach, but me? I welcome the mess and enjoy the revision.
Congratulations on finishing the draft!!! I’m thrilled that this idea of writing the ending and working backward was useful for you. I often draft my picture books by hand and occasionally write novel scenes that way, but I’m so tied to my laptop it’s become my transitional object.
Ah, yes, Lyn! That’s the problem with computers. We’re so attached to them. And they’re so very helpful. I just got a new one, as a matter of fact. Or actually, my son got a new one and I bought his old one from him (I made a contribution toward his new one), and now I have a two-year-old Mac Air instead of a — gulp — eight year old Macbook. But even still, as much as I love my new mac, I keep a spiral notebook and gel pen at the ready. I think my best writing happens there.
Yes, congrats on finishing your draft!! I also write in a notebook or composition book. And I find that writing out of order helps too.
Good to hear, Linda. Now that I’ve had success on this go-round, I’ll definitely try it again!