Sometimes to know where to start, it helps to look at the end.
My first book is coming out this Friday and although the story is told in chronological order, it didn’t start out that way.
When I began writing Sidewalk Flower, the first scene that came to me was gut wrenching and dark. It was so powerful and for a long time, I thought because of that, it had to be the book’s opening. My thinking was that with such a powerful opening scene, it would be hard to put down. In the business, it was the hook I was sure I needed.
Then I learned from a Savvy Authors Editpalooza workshop that sometimes it’s best to let the scenes happen organically. That way the reader has a chance to build up to that powerful event and experience it as it was meant to happen.
Once I let go of the place I’d originally envisioned for that knock-out scene in Sidewalk Flower and put it where it belonged in the time line, I realized it was absolutely the way things were meant to be.
But, I also learned that by writing that last scene first, it allowed me to get to know my characters more deeply and the rest of the story as well. I believe it was one of the biggest strengths of writing my first book that would become published. Knowing where I was going because I’d already been to the end. So I don’t believe I would change the order in which I wrote the story.
I just finished re-watching one of my favorite movies, Neo Ned, starring Jeremy Renner and Gabrielle Union. (I love the tag line: Love is not a Race) In the DVD Extras, Jeremy talks about the process of getting to know his character in order to be able to play him well. He talks about the order of filming and how one of the first scenes they shot was actually the last scene of the film. So essentially, Jeremy was filming a scene as the final version of Ned. The Ned who has learned his lessons and figured out his path in life. By filming the last scene first, it clicked for Jeremy in a way that made him feel like “Ah, now I know this guy.”
Sometimes I worry that by knowing too much about a character, I may do a disservice to the story’s flow. As a writer, I don’t want my knowledge of the character to seep into the reader’s experience too early. I believe Tim Boughn, the writer of Neo Ned, did a great job of allowing his story to unfold at exactly the right pace. It’s nice when the story comes to you in order, but sometimes when you sit down to type it all out, you have to go with what’s most passionate to you in that moment. And that magic doesn’t always happen in chronological order.
My step mom once told me she always reads the ending of a book first because she wants to know how things turn out for the characters, that way she can go back to the beginning and enjoy their story.
We all have our special ways of getting from the beginning to the end. To quote Ned Nelson as he longingly joins his father in prison and sits down to a game of cards at the very end of the movie, “I’m an American hero. Deal me in.” Now, you may know the movie’s ending, but I guarantee you, the story is so good, you’re gonna want to see it from the beginning.
I’d really love to know how you feel about starting at the end?
27 thoughts on “Starting at The End”
As you said, I always read the ending first. Well, not always, but any fiction with depth. I do have authors that are light enough that I know there will be a happy ending and I read beginning, middle and end. But my favorite authors, that includes you Carlene, are mystery based and I just love knowing the ending in order to love the story that got them there. Even in real life I enjoy learning how people got to where they are today. We all have many stories. Can’t wait for your official release. I am a proud stepmom!
Hi Anna! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I hoped you would because ever since you revealed to me your love of reading the end first, it’s always been something I think about. It took a while for yoru reasoning to sink in but I truly get it now. Love you and thank you for all your support! xoxo
I don’t write or read the ending first. I do write the ending before I get to the end – but usually I write the ‘plot’ version of the ending – the required loose strings are tied off. But not necessarily where the characters end up – yes, they are likely in a happy for now place emotionally, but that’s about all I know:)…
Since I’m in the midst of polishing my first contemporary romantic suspense – the movie that comes to mind for me is called “Out of Sight” with Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney – and your thoughts on Neo Ned (which is available on Netflix) reminded me I should give it a watch again.
Good post and looking forward to your big launch day! Congrats.
Good Morning, Denny 🙂 Thank you for sharing another great look into how we get things done. Writing the ending before you get to the end. I don’t know exactly what it is about getting to The End, maybe just being so eager to get these characters we love to their better place. I think we do it with love for them. I enjoyed “Out of Sight” too. That’s one I’ll have to see again. And thank you for the congrats!
I always write out of order, because I never know what scene is going to pop from head onto the page. So I just go with it. It’s the one area of my life where I’m not anal. In my current WIP, the first scene I wrote is actually a memory scene that shows up in chapter 5.
Can’t wait for Sidewalk Flower!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hi Kerri! See, I would never have known that is your writing process! You are one of my favorite organizers 😉 But, I’m very happy to hear that you write what you are feeling in your heart, in the moment. I love memory scenes–can’t wait to read yours 😉 Thank you for your sparkly enthusiasm over Sidewalk Flower 🙂
This is such a great post, Carlene! When I start writing a book, the climax scene (no, not THAT one) is usually one of the first that comes to mind. And then I have to figure out how to get there. But I don’t normally write it right away — maybe for fear that I won’t get the emotion right if I don’t know what my characters have been through. So I usually “save” the writing of it until it comes in chronogical order, but when I finally do get to write it… Now that is a good feeling! Thanks for your thoughts today, Carlene, and I can’t wait for Sidewalk Flower. Just a few days now! You must be so excited!!
Hi Pintip! Thank you so much for your shared excitement 🙂 You are so funny, (no not THAT one 😉 ) I really relate to the whole “figuring out how to get there” part of what you are saying. And I also like that you give yourself time to get the emotion right. When all these aspects come together in The End, it really is a good feeling 😉
I’m just so excited for you I can hardly stand it! Xoxo I cannot wait to read it!
Hahahahaha, me too, Kathleen!!!!!
Congrats on the release being sooooooo close. Speaking of close get away from my boyfriend.
Why does this response remind me of the days when I really wanted to like Jordan Knight but my bossier big sis said I could only like Joey? (Please tell me y’all got that NKOTB reference) Thank you for lending me your man today 😉 Love you, mean it!
Beautiful post, Carlene. I wrote lots of scenes out of order draft I called “done” recently, and it was *horrible*. So, I admire you for getting that not just “done” but DONE. Can. Not. Wait. For your book!
Hi Susan! Thank you so much (hugs). Those scenes that come all nice and orderly are few and far between for me most days. I’m like a frog hopping around in the sticky gooey love swamp. You can join me any time you like. 🙂
I can’t believe your step mom reads the end of a book first. That’s hysterical! I pretend I would never do that, but I guess I have to admit that I do every once in a while. I went to the back of the second book in the Twilight series because I was so annoyed that Edward was gone for so long. 🙂
I think it’s good to kind of know your ending in advance because it does help you figure out how you plan to get there.
I can’t wait for SIDEWALK FLOWER! 🙂
Kim!! I did the exact same thing with New Moon! Had to make sure good ole Eddie was still part of the story. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to hear you confess to doing that. 🙂 It is good to kind of know where you’re going. Not like you can’t take a detour if the story ends up calling for it in the end. I also enjoy completely fresh writing where you have no idea what’s going on until you’re experiencing it right along with the characters. Just depends on the story. Thank you!!!
Hi Carlene, I never consciously thought of movies (or books) that start with the ending scene first as an actual planned way of writing. I too have jumped to the end of a book because I couldn’t take the stress of wondering how it would end up but didn’t want to speed read and miss some good stuff as a result. Now on my way to watch the 2 movies mentioned above while I sew 🙂 Can’t wait for Friday!
Hi Aunt Terry! Haha, I don’t know that any of us plan to start at the end but sometimes that’s what hits you first. Maybe that should be my new plan, it seems to have worked well this time around. Let me know what you think of the movies. Enjoy your sewing…I would not be able to sew while watching Avery’s man, Jeremy, so be safe!
Just finished the Neo Ned and I thought it was a very good movie. Why are you watching Avery’s man?
Hehe, she loves Jeremy Renner…he belongs to her. He played Neo Ned. If I secretly had a crush on him (which I’m not admitting to), I would probably sew my fingers together if I tried watching his movie while sewing!
Hi Diana! Thank you so much and I will tell Anna that 😉 I’ve done my fair share of getting stuck too. That’s when I set it aside, catch a concert or people watch, and listen to the world around me and then hop back to it. I’ve really loved all the process and method sharing today in the pond. I am flattered to the utmost to have you as my #1 Fan 🙂
I didn’t even notice that was his name! He is pretty cute.
“Knowing where I was going because I’d already been to the end.” LOVE IT!
Thank you, Dana! Cheers 🙂
I read the inside front & back covers about the book & author but I never thought of reading the ending of the story first. Don’t think I’d read the book if I did. I’m not that disciplined or dedicated as a reader. I like to experience the unknown, the adventure of it. But I love the insight of why so many people do read the ending first. That’s fascinating! I read Sidewalk Flower’s first 10 chapters last night! Can’t wait to read the next 10 tonight! LOVE YOU & LOVE SIDEWALK FLOWER! I’m so very proud of you!
Hi Mom 🙂 It is very hard to be disciplined enough to keep with something if you’ve already discovered too much about it but I think it was interesting to learn about starting at the end. Sometimes it really does work! Thank you so much for your words. Love you!
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