Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing in Reverse: The Backward Way to Finishing Your WIP

So, I just finished my latest WIP and I did something new this time: I wrote it backward. Or, I should say, I rewrote it backward.

Generally my rough drafts for a YA novel will wrap up at around 40,000-words. Since I strive to get at least 60,000-words by the finish line of a “completed” draft (are they ever really “final”?), that leaves me about 20,000-words of layering, threading, adding, detailing, fleshing out at the like.

Generally I’ll wrap up a rough draft, let it sit for a week and then dig back into the book again starting from page one. But I find that when I do that, I generally hit my word count by about three-fourths of the way through and, mentally, I just run out of stream toward/before the end. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s human nature and I do.

That always leaves me with endings that feel a little rushed, or maybe incomplete or unresolved, and that bugs me. Not that I’m not happy with my endings, but to me I know why they wind up that way and I’m hypersensitive to doing that again.

So, this time I started backward. After I hit my 40,000-words I did the usual: I let it sit for a week or two so I could come back to it fresh. But, when I did, I started from the Epilogue and wrote backward.

I don’t meant that I read/rewrote from the bottom of the page up, but that I would start with the Epilogue and rework that chapter. Then go back to Chapter 25 and rework that, then Chapter 24 and so on.

It felt… weird. At least, at first. It had naturally taken me a few months to write the book so I forgot a few details from the very beginning. Like, I thought the soldiers were wearing camouflage but really they were supposed to be in beige, so I had to clean that up. I thought the main character didn’t know about the security cameras all over town, but it turns out she did.

So, yeah, I had to go back and scrub those but overall I feel like the novel is much better paced this time. The end didn’t feel so rushed. I could treat each chapter like its own little “scene,” write it in a kind of mini-vacuum while already knowing the beginning AND the end and, frankly, I think that helped improve each one.

I dunno, I kind of dug it and think I’ll do it that way from now on. What about you? Do you have a certain “system” for revising, refining and polishing off your rough draft? As always, the comment boxes are open and I’m sure we’d all love to hear about it…

Yours in YA,


No comments: