One day in the not-too-distant past, I sat down and made myself start writing a novel. There was an internal storm that had been gathering within for some time that I was too lazy and defeatist to do anything about–ideas, diatribes, inspirations, musings left to swirl around in under-utilized recesses. But for no specific reason, one day, I finally began. I figured I had the qualifications: known grammar elitist, extreme book nerd, BA in Literature (how useful), a near decade teaching high school English, and just enough narcissism to find the impossible task of writing a novel intriguing and somehow possible.
I had pages and pages and file upon file of incoherent scribblings, penned and/or typed in sleepless hysteria, collected over the course of months. But what to do with them? They did not a story make. So I turned to the always helpful, if a bit overwhelming, internet for assistance. Some writing bloggers and pinners I follow, recommended writing your story in reverse- build the skeleton–complete with all major plot points and character descriptions– and then go back, slowly and painstakingly covering the bones with flesh. This concept seemed entirely foreign to me. I had always written on a whim, when truly inspired and let the short stories I had scrawled unfold organically. Yet, there was an organized brilliance to this approach and if there is one thing I need in life, it’s organization.
After several brainstorming sessions and discarded attempts, my vision became a little more clear and I began to fill a basic, college-ruled, 1-subject paper notebook with specific and general ideas, which slowly evolved into a storyboard and then into a written outline. After a week or two at this phase, I graduated to the Macbook and typed my outline, 39 chapters, with multi-paragraph breakdowns, finishing around 3:00 am-ish.
This piecing together of the bones provided me with an immense sense of satisfaction, a hope that I just might be able to pull this off one day. From there, the delicate work of developing a narrative voice began. Though more challenging, this is the fun, creative part! Juggling my business and toddler, I squeezed in freewrites in the AM and wherever I could (Read more about how I use freewrites here: Want to Become A Creative Genius? Start and End Your Day with a 3-Minute Freewrite ) and focused on longer more focused writing in the evening, after my little guy was happily snoozing, clients were well tended, and husband was maniacally gaming, leaving me in blissful solitude.
I’m less than a third of the way to my goal, but I delight in every word added. My writing gives me hope, purpose, something to work toward, and it’s just plain fun! Below is an excerpt from my first draft of what I hope will someday be a completed, published Literary Southern Gothic:
She had never particularly cared for them. Not as presents nor as decor. They struck her as altogether too overtly feminine in the worst possible way. They were pretty. That was their sole function. Like silent cheerleaders for the natural world. Granted there was the matter of bees and pollinating and what have you, but overall, the flower was a useless and overdone symbol.
The irony of having these thoughts, on the very day she left, does not escape her. Hell, it’s downright hilarious, or would be if it weren’t so very troubling. It transcended one’s comprehension. She had awoken free, vocal, pleasantly sardonic, and by nightfall had been rendered immobile, silent, and perhaps worst of all, conveying to the outside worls a bright cheerfulness wholly inappropriate given her current situation and state of mind.
Unable to scream, cry, or even laugh maniacally at the absurd futility of it all, she waits and observes. There are others here. She is not alone. She is not sure if this realization should bring her any comfort. Like her, they are trapped here, unwilling participants in this bizarre play for the sky, the sun, the birds.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or shoot me a message!
2 thoughts on “A Novel Approach: Writing Literary Fiction in Reverse”
I just came upon your post and so enjoyed it. I pen a daily motivational blog for writers and am
always looking for ideas to share — your reverse writing description is very inspiring and I
hope I can share your experiences and blog with my readers. Your novel excerpt is intriguing!
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Thanks, Karin! I sincerely appreciate it!