Writing the Ending First


My latest offering, Come Apart, due to hit digital and print queue’s everywhere in March, was an experiment of sorts.  According to my proofer’s comments the experiement was a complete success.

I wanted Come Apart to be a puzzle.  I wanted to write a novel much like Pines by Blake Crouch, which is a story that unfolds a bit at a time, providing a world for the reader that is a mirage which unveils little by little, finally revealing an ending that is an absolute shocker.

I did this by writing the final chapter first.  In the beginning I did not have the entire novel outlined, having only a germ of an idea for the novel, and so spent much of my time (about three weeks) perfecting that final chapter.

Scrivener was a huge help in doing this, as it allowed me to keep track of all of the subtle nuances of the text with notes, color coded sections and other bells and whistles.  I highly suggest every writer use this, and even though I receive nothing from them to compensate my praise, I still feel that it is the best word processor for long form novels on the market.

Writing the final chapter first and revising it over the course of the three weeks provided a unique opportunity to carefully think about the third act of the novel.  The third act is indeed the most important part of any novel, and focusing on the quality of that final chapter caused the rest of the novel to focus intently on the resolution.  One of my proof readers said that they had to go back and read the novel again to find all of the clues leading to the ending.  I placed these clues carefully in the preceding chapters, and an astute reader might be able to figure out the ending before they reach it.

This method creates a drive within the reader to finish the novel due to the cliffhanger nature of each chapter.  Each chapter reveals more and more about the ending, causing the suspense to rise exponentially until they are shocked and relieved when reading the final few pages.

Give it a shot.  Try writing the final chapter first.  It is also a great motivator to finish writing a novel because it fuels the writing effort as you hack through the weeds to get to that clearing at the end.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

7 thoughts on “Writing the Ending First

  1. Given that I’m constantly struggling to end the stories… perhaps turning it upside down might even help. Hmm – might work out like pyramid scheme in old Egypt, where everything was balanced on pharaoh.

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