Today I’m ready to feel my fingers fly along the keyboard, inventing a new world of conflict for a new set of characters. This time I’m going to write the last scene… the last sentence first.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to plotting a novel: get it all planned out in advance vs. let it unfold organically. Some writers have to know the ending; others need to have the ending revealed to them somewhere along the way.
The fiction-writing I did in the 90’s was organic, revelatory. I see the same approach on lots of writer’s blogs and forums. The result of this process either requires an enormous commitment to multiple revisions (to tame the rambling) or a willingness to call it “experimental” or “postmodern” (very dangerous territory for a DIY author-publisher).
On the other hand, I’m noticing that successful, productive writers (e.g., John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates) claim to start with a specific end in mind and work toward it. I’m impressed. This sounds more disciplined, less self-indulgent, less “fun” and more craftsmanlike. John Irving claims to do the last line first (check out this interview video>>>), but then may spend a year exploring the characters and writing notes before he writes the first sentence.
I feel like I’m too old to ramble. I feel like I’ve come to a point in life where I ought to know what I want to say, then build a story around it. Also, if I know where I want to end up, I can have lots of complicated fun getting there.
As of this morning my last line is DON’T LOOK BACK. My heroine Stella Kelly says:
“You hold on to me, Harry, hear me now? And don’t look back.”
I’m reading a lot of Graham Greene — Catholic writer (The Third Man, The Power and the Glory) — he’s into sin. Maybe I’m thinking of Lot’s wife, who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot’s of possibilities, dontcha think?