Starting at the end
I just finished writing the script for my up-and-coming graphic novel “Journey to the Middle Kingdom.” I'm funding it through Kickstarter and getting the campaign underway October 8th. I'm super excited for that, but I was also super excited to finally be done with the script after having experienced chronic writer's block. I could not put a word to the page during the entire month of June to save my life. I remember just staring blankly at the computer screen for hours, finding creative ways to procrastinate (“Ain't nobody got time for that”) and found myself just wasting time. I hate that. What was the problem?
Sometimes when we write we have a bunch of scenes in our head that we want to just cram into the book without thinking of how to connect them all. Even if we get some sort of outline going, we still have to make sure that the characters can stay in character and the storyline doesn't collapse into an endless black plot hole. I mean, there is always Deus Ex Machina to save you, but really, who wants to resort to that?
What I do is start at the end. When I was writing the script for “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” I already knew exactly how I wanted the book to end. I also had some interesting scenes that I thought were just plain cool or moved the story along. So what I did, was after writing the beginning of the script, I skipped straight to the end and starting writing backwards.
Once I did that, I realized I needed extra characters, especially antagonists, to make the story flow, and I could just add them in without worrying. If I had done the book in chronological order, then I might have hit snags and ended up not knowing what to do to bridge one scene with the next. For example, in “Journey to the Middle Kingdom,” the three main characters (Jason, Sabrina, and Michelle) travel back in time to ancient China and receive magical calligraphy brushes from the Jade Emperor to help them on their quest. Once I got to this point, I went to the end where I put in the cliff hanger I had been dreaming up for months. When I wrote it, I thought about what scene should come before it. When I went scene by scene, but backwards, I realized that the plot was too straightforward, and that to make it more interesting, I had to add more characters. The story wasn't interesting until there were more antagonists and more monkey wrenches thrown into the plans of the main characters.
If I had done the script from beginning to end, I may have gotten to the end, but the plot would have been flat and I would've stared at my keyboard until three in the morning, perusing the embodiment of endless fascination that is “Bored.com” instead of getting the script done. My tip? Start at the end. You'll see things in your story you would never have otherwise seen if you do it the plain jane chronological way.
Thanks to Jon for the guest post! And remember you can click here to access the Kickstarter.