Friday, August 16, 2019

Writing Your End Scene First: Why It Works and How to Do It

"Write your end scene first."

That seems like weird advice, right?

Well, it is. But it's actually really good advice, too. I tested it out while writing my most recent writing project: This Pain Inside, an underwater sci-fi to be published in Strange Waters. As a trailblazer (the easier-to-pronounce term for pantster), this little trick kept my writing process far more efficient than it usually is. It was a magical experience, so I wanted to share some tips with you so that you can give the end-scene-first hack a try:

Writing Your End Scene First: Why It Works and How to Do It

Before we get started, I'm sure some of you more contrary readers have this question rolling around your head:

Why would you want to write the end scene first? 

This is easy to answer. You write the end scene first because it helps you see exactly where it is you are heading. If you don't have a solid end in mind when you start a story, you will inevitably start meandering. Sure, you could just have an outline (supposing you're the outlining type), but that isn't as easy to envision as having an actual end scene already written out. 

Writing the end scene first keeps you on track. It also helps you get pumped up because you have this awesome end scene that you just can't wait to build up to. 

Got it? Okay, let's talk tips: 

1. Know that you don't have to have it all figured out. The beauty of writing the end scene first is that all you need to know is the basic way you want to close out the story. You don't need to know the middle part of the story. You don't need to know everything about your main character or your world. Heck, when I wrote my end scene my main character didn't even have a name. I was basically pulling an Andy Dwyer: I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew I was doing it really, really well.

Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec making an excited/sheepish face.

Despite not needing to know everything, what you do need to know is what issue is being resolved so that you can wrap it up nicely at the end. Ideally, you will have both your character conflict and plot conflict figured out when you start writing, as this is the information you need to reach a satisfying end.

Yes, it can be very disconcerting to start writing a scene with very little information, but that's okay. Keep going. You can edit later.

2. Go into your end scene with an emotion or theme in mind. This will give your scene a cohesive feeling despite the fact that you may not know a lot about the rest of your story. For instance: I knew that I wanted my end scene to convey hope and power, so I used actions and language that best conveyed those emotions.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. This end scene will change as your go back and write the rest of the story, so there's no use in fixating on any particular part of the scene. Don't stress about getting he ending line just perfect. Don't worry if you don't have a character name. It's even okay if you literally have no idea where you plan to start the story. None of that matters. What matters is that you block out an end scene for you to write towards.

4. Expect to have to re-write portions of your end scene. Portions of your end scene will change as you add or change details earlier in the story. I ended up having to re-work a good 30% of my end scene once I wrote the rest of the story. But you know what? That still takes less time than writing a sprawling story with no end in sight, then having to go back and re-work and cut and clarify. It's worth it, I promise.

Have you ever tried this hack? How did it go? I'd love to hear about it.

Related articles:
6 Tips for Writing a Killer End Scene

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  1. I might have to give this a try! I used to write by hopping to all the most important scenes first and then fit them together afterward, so I think it might work well for me.

  2. I started with the end scene for my WIP, Harbinger. I had bits of the end scene written on a secret blog and then I just asked the questions: How did they get here? What happened to this city that it got destroyed? And then I went from there.


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