Friday, 4 June 2010

Write to the End

When we find a good book, we read to the finish and for the finish. I believe that when we write a good book, the same should apply. I've written one book completely out of order and another completely linearly - for me, the latter method won out.

I've seen advice for blocked writers that suggests you should write scenes as they come to you, that it's ok to write the ending first and gradually fill in back to the start. Maybe this works if you are the kind of person (like my mother-in-law) who reads the last page of a book before starting it. But if you love the tension and surprise of a good plot, you can use that to drive your own writing.

A couple of months ago, I came up with the concept for a key scene close to the end of Back from the Dead. A delicious scene that turned the tables on the reader and made them complicit in the narrative in a way that they hadn't been up until that point. Naturally, I wanted to write that scene there and then, but I had most of the third act to navigate before I got there.

I researched locations and planned character arcs. I kidnapped my characters and set them free and then put them into even worse danger.

And still I couldn't write the scene.

I opened up the scope of the book with a big action sequence. I wrestled with motion and velocity, tried to express complex, fast moving activities in simple, sensory ways.

And still I couldn't write the scene.

I followed my main character as he found his family and simultaneously lost all sense of himself.

When was I going to get to write the damn scene?

Then, suddenly, I was writing it. A mere 400 words, flowing like fresh blood from an arterial wound. All that pent-up tension had powered me through the previous month, but it also gave me time to add new themes and elements to the third act that raised the drama to an even higher level. Unquestionably, it's my favourite scene in the book - before and after writing it.

So, this is all in the "works for me" category, as ever. What works for you? And is there anyone else who reads the end of a book before the start? Answers below, if you please...



  1. I have never understood why people would want to read the end of a book first. It makes no sense to me because surely that's part of the reading experience - to go on the journey with the protagonist. Takes away all the fun.

    I tend to write my stuff in a linear fashion but I'm quite loose in my approach because I like to see where my journey will take me and the characters.

  2. Good point Nick! I tend to write from start to finish. I don't write scenes in the middle because I don't know what they will be until I get there in the story.