Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Beginning at the End

Here’s a writing tip to test out: Write the last chapter early on. You might even write the final chapter first.

I’ve heard from dozens of writers who do this, and there’s a lot to be said for playing with the technique. I almost always have the final chapter written before I’m halfway through with a book. Several times (including with Molly Fyde books), I wrote the epilogue before I wrote the prologue.

This doesn’t mean you’re locked into that chapter. You can change the ending later. Maybe it’ll be different characters. None of that matters. What matters is that you have a sense of what your book is about, what the great climax or resolution is all about, so you know what needs to happen to get you there.

It’s also like a line in the sand. A target. Something to aim for. If you set off on a walk, and you don’t know how far you’re gonna walk, you don’t know how to pace yourself. You might not even want to set out, because the journey feels interminable. Last chapters are also just plain fun to write. Give it a try. And then go back to the start, connect those two dots, and you’ve got yourself a story.

9 replies to “Beginning at the End”

That’s an interesting idea. I thought about it before, many times…never heard anyone say anything about it until just now. When I write my next standalone novel (which will end up being scifi, I think), I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for the tip!

I did exactly this with the current story I have on the go. It was something of a necessity as the book began as a series of connected short stories. As I completed more of the work it started to make sense as a full-length story. The problem was that I had lots of self-contained endings within the short stories, and no overall ending to tie them all together.

I went off and wrote an ending featuring my lead character and a lot of the necessary plot points to make it work as a unified story started falling into place. The ending has been through several rewrites as the plot has evolved, but it’s been a relief to know how it turns out. I’m a peripatetic writer in any case and I’m learning that having a destination before I start is probably the only way I can produce a coherent piece of work.

I am not a writer and i will never be or try to be. I have not the things that seem to be necessary to be a writer, expecially absolut no storys or ideas in my head. Never had, never will. I have other interests and other abilitys…

BUT

its absolut interesting for me how you writers start up with your ideas. And starting with the end is an interesting technique. By the way this way is the same all the usual (we on the other side of the writers pencil) people also do often. We have an idea how something should look feel react or whatever be like and then break it down backwards to find a way to get to the first final idea…

Never thought about it, very interesting!

Remembered after thinking about this blog-entry yesterday. My father always reads the last few sentences of a book first. If he likes what he reada he starts to read the book, if not he takes another one… Strange but true!

It depends on the story being told, of course, but I like reverse-engineering as well. For the book I’m working on right now, it seems to be the only way. The ending was decided upon early on, and seeing how everything just builds up to the next chapter, the book seems to write itself backwards. There’ll be plenty rewrites of course, but then I’m not doing this with pen and paper.

This is an amazing strategy, especially if you are writing a story with some mystery to it. I wrote out the end of my book series towards the beginning and have really enjoyed being able to weave hints and foreshadowing into the story that aren’t real obvious the first time around. Little pieces of information that at the time seem insignificant but when you go back after you know the end you get to see the story from a whole new perspective, noticing the clues that were left along the way that you hadn’t seen before. =)

Greetings, I’m Gonzalo and I’m truly grateful that I found hughhowey.
com. I have got a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do
not mind. What do you do to clear your thoughts and find your
center of focus before you sit down to write? Lately I just
can’t get my head clear so that I’m able to concentrate on my ideas.
I truly do enjoy writing, but it just seems like
the first 10 to fifteen mins are lost merely just trying to figure out
how to get started. Do you have any advice or tips?

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