Week two of camp: Working backward

Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies as it contains many quotes applicable to real life situations (as does one of my other faves, Real Genius). An example:

Inigo makes it sound so easy. “A” is happening, so we must do “B”, and then “C”, but not before I do “D”. Ah, the perfect plot prescription.

I’ve struggled to settle into the plot of my new project. I know what I want to write about and have a rough idea of how to get there, but I’m pretty sure someone tossed the road map out the window. Wait, there never was a road map. Who uses road maps anymore?

Enter my Camp NaNoWriMo cabin mates. There are only three of us in our self-proclaimed “Cabin of Fun”, but three brains are better than one and seeing as mine seems to be stuck like a record player needle (record players? see note above regarding road maps), I need all the help I can get.

The other day we chatted about zero drafts, another way to describe when you gather up information for what will eventually become your first draft. Reading, researching, jotting ideas down in various journals and then forgetting where you left the journals, stream of consciousness writing that will hopefully lead you to the place you need to be. It’s all an important part of the process. But so often we want to rush through it to get to the YAY, WORD COUNTS! LOOK AT ALL I ACCOMPLISHED! part of the writing. Which I have been feeling. Hard. I desperately want the little arrow on my target to inch closer to the bulls eye. We’re halfway through the month and I am hovering around 10%.

I promised in last week’s post that I would keep moving forward. And I did.

No, wait. I didn’t. I moved backward.

Lemme ‘splain.

My cabin mate suggested I think about what happens in the end of my story and work backward. There are two main plot threads, one in real time and one through a series of flashbacks. She said I need to start with where my character is at the end, then figure out how she got there, and how she got into each previous situation. Cause and effect in reverse. She said he helps her identify potential plot holes and makes it easier to create an outline and from there a first draft.

Sounded legit, so I tried it.

I didn’t add any new words to the story itself this past week, but I wrote approximately 360 words in my journal using her exercise. It helped me see the big picture better. And I’m excited about using the plot points to move forward with the draft. Which may end up being a zero draft. Right now it is one giant chapter that jumps all over the place. Most of it will be cut, but in those pages I hope to find something worthwhile.

When you feel like there is too much and you need to sum up, try doing it backwards.

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