Writing Backwards

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is already more than a quarter finished. Writers from all over the world are scribbling, typing and running word sprints as you read this, trying to complete the goal of writing 50,000 words in just one month.

This is only my third year NaNo-ing, and I have no real intention of ‘winning.’ I haven’t visited the official NaNo site once, nor have I even been tallying my word count. But I do lurk around the NaNo Facebook group that I’m on, giving words of encouragement and sometimes finding inspiration in their posts. One of the best parts about NaNo is that it turns writing from a solitary act to a team sport; that connection with other writers who are also creating characters and living in fictional worlds unites us in normalizing these seemingly escapist techniques.

My personal goal with NaNo is just to keep disciplined—to write for two hours daily. And of course, just days ago, I failed that goal. Partly, it was the weekend and writing while the kids are home is like trying to roast a leg of lamb in a toaster oven: yes, the heat is on, but the door will never close and the task is simply too grand for that tiny toaster.

The other reason is I just don’t know how the rest of my scene is supposed to play out. I sat there for a while, staring at the pen in my hand, unsure of what to do next. Then, I remembered something…

When I began writing my debut novel, Normal Calm, I had a revelation that afterwards made me feel so silly for not realizing earlier: When we read books we must read them chronologically for them to make sense. You must read page one, followed by page two, and so on. But one of the beauties of writing a novel, is that one is not governed by that same law. I can very well write the final scene of the novel first, if I so choose, and no reader will ever be the wiser. Writing backwards, I call it (even though it would be more appropriately called ‘writing out of order,’ but what fun is that?).

Writing backwards is what will save me with this novel. I have a few scenes ready in mind, and so the time has come for me to abandon the scene which is giving me trouble and work on another. The added bonus of that, is that usually my subconscious will continue to figure out that troubled scene, and by leaving it alone for a while, the solution will probably make itself know to me very naturally.

If you haven’t already, try writing backwards, and see how it works for you.

(Thank you for reading and liking this post. You may enjoy reading the four interviews I wrote for the women characters of my novel, Behind Picket Fences. The interviews were super fun to write, and I think you’ll find yourself wondering if they are characters from a book or real people. Click here for the interviews.)

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