Start By Writing the Final Chapter First

by Dax MacGregor
My pantser ways led to insurmountable plot holes, which led to writer's block, which I resolved by writing the final chapter first.

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.

What’s your opinion? Please share it below.


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