Over the years I’ve attempted write countless novels. My problem has always been though that I get “bored.” Well not so much bored, as I lose track where the plot is going or can’t for the life of me figure out how to get my characters from point A to point B, so instead I claim “alack and alas tis all crap.”
Darkened North doesn’t have that luxury. It might have done had I not committed to the 6 Month Novel Writing Course with Pamela Freeman at the Australian Writers’ Centre in Sydney, but I did and so, it doesn’t. The novel needs to be completed.
I’ve come to terms with the fact it won’t be completely done, I’ll probably end up about 30,000 words short or thereabouts. But, by the deadline I have to at least hand across to Pamela the conclusion. In order for that happen, I need to have written it.
And it is here that I’ve stumbled onto a technique I first heard about in an interview with the JK Rowling. In the interview, which from memory came out around the time of The Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling said she’d always known how the series would end.
I assumed she meant Spoiler Alert: Voldemort would die.
It wasn’t until later on that I realised she’d actually written the ending of the series in the early days of writing the first novel. For me, that seemed improbable. I don’t write like that. I’m much too linear. I write from the beginning to the end, with a journey through the middle. The idea of jumping around randomly through the novel always struck me as a living nightmare.
When I realised I would have no choice but to skip the middle of the book and head straight for the ending I was terrified. I had no idea how the book would end. As I’d mentioned before, the original ending was not going to happen, not now I had a random Queen wandering the pages of the novel. To be fair though, my original ending was shit, so that turned out to be a good thing.
It meant I had to focus on the trigger. What was going to happen – and where – to ensure all the characters were where I needed them to be during the final power push which was to lead us to war and the second book in the series Seasons of Fire.
When I first caught the tail of the trigger I tried to throw it back. It was something I didn’t want to write, but it was so freaking perfect. It led my characters to where I needed to them to be, kicked the readers in the face in an unexpected twist, set one of my characters adrift, left another doubting his abilities and assembled all the players in one room for the big TA DA!
Since I wrote that chapter, I’ve been working my way towards the conclusion. I’ve got stuff coming up I mostly didn’t expect, or know about. Characters are acting in unexpected ways, and it’s showing me the way I need to rework the first portion of the book to better reflect the ending.
This afternoon while I was writing a chapter, I realised that one of my characters – who I’d always thought was a bit player – is indeed not. Knowing that means I need to re-examine her and ensure her importance is played throughout the entirety of the novel.
I also realised my “bad guys” need to be in the novel much sooner, and the first 30,000 odd words basically need to be scrapped – not that I’m doing that now, it can wait till the first edit. The novel needs to start at a particular point – The Festival of The Testing – and the chapters need to be combined in such a way that all of the main characters are introduced in the first couple of chapters, not scattered all over the place.
Having never written from the end to the beginning before it’s amazing what I’ve learned about my own novel. Not only has it shown me some pretty serious holes in the plot, it also showed me that even if I don’t consciously know where I’m going, there is a part of my brain that knows with absolute confidence.
When I get around to writing Season of Fire, I think I’ll do it this way. Write the conclusion first, although maybe I’ll write the ending of the entire series, just to see how it all ends.
I’d be interested to hear your views on writing backwards – so to speak. Have you ever done it? Did you find it helped or hindered the creative process?