Writing Backwards

What?  Backwards?

What I mean is, instead of writing a novel (or, for me now, screenplays) and then trying to condense my 70+K pile of words into 500-800 word synopsis, then a 100-150 word blurb and finally a 10-25 word logline (less important for novels, but critical for screenplays), I start the other way around.

I’m sure that most, if not all, first time authors simply start writing.  The more plotter oriented (vs pantser) will have outlined their story, but basically, assuming you actually are a writer, you’re going to write just to find out if you can.

The problem then becomes condensing.  You started writing for a reason, you had a story to tell, something that caused your fingers to itch.  But now that all got lost in your wonderful prose,  your charming characters, your clever plots.  You’ve lost sight of why you started writing, so distilling your pile of prose to a simple coherent summary is hard.  I’m positive I spent way more time on my blurb and synopsis than I did writing the first draft.  I decided: never again!

So now, when all I have is the gist, that kernel of an idea I want to blow up into a pile of prose, that’s when I create my summaries.  I make notes about what’s important for the story, the elements of the plot and characterization I think make it unique and worth investing time, the critical reveals, sometimes even dialog.  I turn that into a blurb, logline and synopsis first, and only then start writing.

This doesn’t mean you can’t change.  Never think of them as a straight jacket, but if you decide you want your cozy mystery to morph into a scifi first contact, you should, then and there, update your blurb, logline and synopsis with the reasons why.

Does this make me a plotter?  Well, to a certain degree.  But I always knew the ending before I started writing any of my stories.  And I usually wrote the ending fairly early in the process.  Sometimes the ending morphed as I wrote the body of the story, but usually the ending was what drove the structure of the body to begin with.

Now, if you’re writing for your own enjoyment and never intend to show it to more than a handful of friends, no worries.  Go with what works.  But if you intend to show your baby to the world in an effort to get paid, you’ll need a blurb at an absolute minimum, one that captures the essence of your story, grips the reader and forces them to buy and read.  I feel that’s much easier to do if you start that process first, rather than last.

Author: mitusents

Biochemist, MBA, then programmer. Now novelist, screenplay writer and hopefully director. What a strange trip it's been.

1 thought on “Writing Backwards”

  1. An interesting solution. I have tried to make this work in the past but found a blurb written before the novel turns out dry and lifeless. It can’t contain the developments that spring to mind as you write. A lot of those only spring to mind once you have fully developed the dialogue, and doing that helps round out the characters. It’s the later developments you weave into the story can turn into the best elements of it

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