I may offend or confuse some of you pantsers out there, but I’m really becoming a firm believer in knowing the end of your story before you finish. Most any writer who outlines at all probably has at least a vague idea of how the story is going to end – otherwise, what’s the point of the outline?
If you’re a die-hard pantser (one who writes “by the seat of your pants” and never knows what the next scene of your story is going to be about), then keep doing what you’re doing if it’s working for you. And if you’re a hybrid plotter/pantser and it’s working for you, keep that up, too.
I’m not actually trying to change anyone’s mind or writing method in this post – or even give instructions, really. I’ve just made some observations recently about my own writing method, so I thought I’d share.
I’ve always been more of a plotter than a pantser, and lately I’ve been writing the endings to my stories fairly early on in the process. Not just outlining how the tale will end, but actually writing out the final scene.
I didn’t intentionally plan to do this, but as I was outlining the story and writing the first few scenes, I realized I knew how I wanted it to end. So instead of just putting the details into the outline, I went ahead and wrote out the scene. Now, by the time I finally finished the story and got to that final scene, a few minor details needed to be changed, based on what else had transpired during the story (and how much I might have deviated from my original outline).
I did this with the historical fiction novel I wrote earlier this year, as well as a sci-fi novella that I just finished up last week. And oddly, as I was writing a poem the other day, I had the last line of the poem in mind before I even knew how I wanted the rest of the poem to go, so I wrote that first. (I don’t know if that makes me a weird and clueless poet, or a genius poet, but either way, there it is).
Anyway, what I’ve discovered is that this process of writing out the final scene early in the story has helped me get through that dreaded muddle in the middle. I may be unsure of how to get to my destination, but I know what that destination is. I know how the main characters have been changed, how the world has changed, and what has remained the same. It’s helped me because, like a god, I can look down at my characters and know who they will become, and then the writing of the middle and main part of the story is simply me guiding them down the right path to becoming who they are meant to be.
I’d be interested to know what you other plotters – and even you pansters! – think about this process. Has anyone else tried writing out your final scene in full, and using that as your guide for writing the rest of the story? Do you have a different process? Please share!