Roy Peter Clark wrote the 2010 bestselling book, The Glamour of Grammar, and on September 21, 2011, his new book will be released. The new book is entitled Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces. Mr. Clark joins us here for a guest post, answering a key question for us.
JA: Should you write the ending of your story first?
RPC: The paragon for this paradigm is J.K. Rowling, who has told the story many times that she began writing the seven-book Harry Potter series by writing the ending first. Not the ending of the first book, mind you, but the ending of the seventh book! She even teased her faithful readers with the news that the last word in the series would be “scar.” She changed her mind.
It helped me to write to an ending for my 1999 newspaper serial novel “Ain’t Done Yet.” The story, in 30 chapters, described a burned-out reporter hired to investigate a cult planning a terrorist attack for New Year’s Day 2000. Max Timlin, the reporter, feared two things most of all: lightning storms and high places. So, of course, he would fight to the death with the villain on top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a fierce storm. Because I knew the big arc of the story, I could focus on the little arcs, those moments of surprise that reveal patterns, cliff hangers, and character.
I like the advice of a novelist (don’t remember his name) who said that writing fiction was like driving a car at night along a winding country road. You don’t need to see all the way to your destination, as long as your headlights can illuminate a stretch of the road ahead. In other words, if you can write your way to the end of a scene, you can build narrative momentum toward what’s coming next.
Interested in winning a copy of Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces? If so, just return to this site on Wednesday, September 21st to see how you can win one of five (5) copies that we’re giving away!