As I described in my post, Pantser to Plotter, I started writing my first novel as a pantser. I planned to write a short story, but the story grew into a novel.
As my writing progressed, one of my characters did something unexpected, and the entire story evolved in a new, tantalizing direction. This development excited me, and I spent the next month expanding this new storyline. But as I worked, I gradually realized the new narrative created holes in the plot.
Plot Holes Lead to Writers Block
When I discovered my plot holes, my writing stopped. I spent weeks working on pursuing solutions. I rewrote earlier scenes but found those created additional plot holes. Finally, after writing and later discarding several rewritten chapters, I stopped writing and resorted to making notes on a whiteboard where I could quickly record (and trash) new ideas.
I spent weeks without finding a solution. Eventually, I set the story aside and worked on other projects.
Solution: Writing Final Chapter Provides a Clear Destination
Then I read in Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer that J. K. Rowling started the Harry Potter series by writing the final chapter of the last book. But, of course, as a pantser, that option never occurred to me.
So that’s what I did. But before I could write the ending, I needed to bring the story to the point of closure in my head. Sure, I knew where the story led. But I had several alternative concepts on how to wrap things up.
When I roughed out the final chapter, I thought: This is like an epilogue. Where’s the excitement? Where is the climax? It took a week of sketching, trashing, and recycling ideas before finding the ending I wanted.
Once I’d completed the final chapter, I found my mental obstacles had vanished. With the destination defined, writing became so much easier. After all, now I knew where I was going!
I realized the branch of the story, which I had spent a month writing, had to go. But, instead of grieving the loss of that material, I found excitement in being able to write again.
Afterward, I recalled the words of Lewis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Writing the last chapter first cured my writer’s block.
Now I Start New Projects By Writing the Final Chapter First
Now, I sketch out the story’s key points and outline the final chapter before writing the first chapter. The process provides clarity and dramatically improves my productivity.
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