Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Backward Approach to Writing a Novel

(A rather lovely portrait I found which sparked the idea for my MC, Reise, by artist Charlie Bowater)
Thursday evening, I finished editing the epilogue of The Last Storming, my NaNoWriMo project from this past November. It was quite an accomplishment. Now, I’m working on the final chapter. No, I’ve not gone batty; I really did finish the epilogue of this draft. Eventually I’ll work on the first chapter, and then end with the prologue.

You see, I’m editing backwards.

TLS has been lying almost untouched since December, and I promised myself I would have the NaNo draft—which is pretty much a ghost draft that, in the end, doesn’t count for a whole lot—polished into an official ‘first draft’. (When working on another project once, my little brother asked me “So are you going to be doing like, two thousand drafts?” And, while it sometimes feels like that’s the case, I’m really hoping it’s not.)

I began the rewrite of the first chapter and could not get it right. Since my writing friends have charged me not to ever delete anything, I have multiple copies of that first chapter lying around. Maybe they’ll come in use one day, but I doubt it. I wrote, and scrapped, and wrote, and scrapped again, growing more and more frustrated with each fail. I finally just let it go and have abandoned the project over the last few months. However, I plan on writing the sequel for NaNo this coming November, and if that’s the case, a more clear background and solid foundation is needed. So I made a deadline for myself: September. I wrote out a to-do list for writing this year, things I felt I had to get done. (Although finishing Carousel, another project I promised would be done by July, is looking less and less likely.) TLS was at the top of the list, even though it’s ‘due date’ is later in the year.

So it has become my summer project. Ongoing stories projects (such as Carousel which is receiving some minor critique and read-through work by fellow writers, and Island of the Kahts, which I’ve been posting online at are being put on hold, or at least not getting as much attention, now that summer has come. September looms only four months away and work on TLS, to quote Andrew Peterson, is like ‘pushing a semi uphill’. Difficult, to say the least.

TLS is my first steampunk project and one of my favorite stories; I’m especially excited to begin work on the sequel come fall. (Even more so now that the first try of the epilogue on TLS turned into the first chapter of its companion, a useful but frustrating result. Is that even legal in NaNoWriMo? Oh well.)

Avoiding spoilers in case, by some miracle, the story is ever released upon the public, I hope to be giving updates as I near the deadline. (I’m not very good with deadlines. NaNo is the only one I’ve successfully met with, to date.)

This all makes me curious: Has anyone else used such an atypical method in their writing as going about it backwards? What helps you get through those tough chapters—whether they are in the beginning, middle, or end?

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