bookmark_borderWriting Backwards

I’m writing backwards.

I’ve tried something similar before, starting from an event, treating it as the effect and then looking for potential causes. And following that with the cause for that cause, and a cause for that cause, and so on.

This time, I have a novel in progress. I pantsed the first half, building on a basic premise and principle characters, throwing ideas and moments and subplots up without deciding on an order or which ones to keep. Once I arrived well past the mid point I spent a few weeks creating revision after revision of the order of the material that had survived to that point. In order to continue, I felt as if I needed to solidify what story I had so far like a foundation for a building.

Then I did some similar pantsing, testing, trying out material and ideas for the rest, but but at some point I got the idea to write an outline of what I’d written so far, in prose, like a Coles or Spark Notes version of a novel. Trying to get some clarity and focus, or just some ideas. And then I tried summarizing what might happen next. I’ve done similar before, with shorter stories. But this time, because it is a novel, it was interesting to read what I was proposing and to try on different possibilities. Because it was prose and not notes, I could feel how various ideas might work or not work. Because of how much time and writing I had spent spinning out material and investigating the main characters, it was easy to project into their futures as if I were watching a  movie to see how well they fit. And because it was an outline, it was easy to move around and revise and try to patch plot holes.

When I arrived at a complete version (and after revising that a few times) I started writing material that might be useful. Oddly, I felt most inclined to write something very near the end; just dialog between one of the characters and two officers from Internal Affairs.

Then I went to the previous paragraph in my outline, and wrote that.

And then another.

So now I’m writing the novel like a plotter. Only I’m writing backwards.

One of the challenges writing backwards is sometimes I have to clarify details. Even though I’ve outlined all the way through I don’t remember the details of what I’m supposed to write. Was the stun gun already mentioned? Do the police have a statement yet? When I write forward I don’t have this problem because the scenes I’ve already written are firm in my mind. They exist like memories, but writing backwards is more like I watched a movie and now I have to remember the order and write the story. The firmness of the sequence of details is not the same as writing forwards because it didn’t happen (wasn’t written) in real time.

I wonder if characters who live time in reverse have this same problem? Or, if they didn’t have an outline they’d be left like someone with dementia, in the future, with no memory of how they got there.