I’m pleased to welcome best selling author Melissa McClone to my blog. Melissa has published over forty romance novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group and has been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. When she’s not writing, Melissa can usually be found driving her children to various activities. (I can relate!) Her latest novel is The Valentine Quest (Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 5). You can find links to all Melissa’s books on her website. I like her idea of writing the last chapter near the beginning of her writing process. I may try that myself just to see what happens. Anyway, welcome, Melissa!
Knowing the End by Melissa McClone
When I decided to try writing a romance novel, I was a die-hard romance reader who was working full-time during the day as a mechanical engineer and taking classes toward an MBA at night. I was left-brained to the max. This, however, served me well with plotting those first stories.
Forty-odd published works later, I’m still a plotter, but over the past two decades (my “call” from Harlequin to buy my first book came in November 1997 when I was pregnant with my first child who is now a freshman in college), my process has changed a little.
What’s the same?
I like to have an outline or synopsis to get a general feel for the story. I use this to make sure I don’t forget anything I should have. That means when I’m ready to outline, I pull out one of my plot/structure books/worksheets and decide which one I’d like to use. I wish I could say I found the perfect plotting tool or method that I use with each project, but I haven’t. These, however, are my go to resources:
- Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat
- Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants
- James Scott Bell’s Super Structure
- Michael Hauge’s Story Mastery
- Jami Gold’s Worksheets through Writers (free)
My outline/synopsis is never set in stone. It’s just so I know where to start and have an idea of where I’m going. Next, I write the first three chapters. This is where I get to know my characters. Often there’s too much internalization and backstory in the first draft, but I don’t worry about that. That’s what revisions are for.
What’s different about my process now?
With a couple published novels to my name, I decided to try something different with how I wrote. After I’d drafted the first three chapters, I wrote the last chapter of the story. When I did that, something clicked in my brain. Something good, so that’s what I started doing and have been doing. I used to write only the last chapter, but lately (I forgot exactly when), I’ve been writing from the black moment to the end.
During the revision passes (I’m a draft writer), I’ll add more detail and description, and of course, clean up the writing, but the scenes don’t change much. The only significant rewrites have happened when I changed a character’s internal conflict, but I can’t remember ever changing the actual setting of an end scene.
Some of my writer friends don’t get this at all. We’ve had some interesting discussions about my process. I don’t know if it’s my left brain or what, but I need to know the ending to know how to get there. Writing the end first doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of writing the rest of the story. If anything, I can breathe easier and enjoy the journey to get there.
A friend once encouraged me to write the story linearly just to see what that was like. She felt I was missing the discovery that happens as you write from start to finish. I’m always up for experimenting, so I gave it a try with a novella.
A total mess and lots of tears.
The bright side of the experiment, however, led me to completely embrace my process. When others tell me that they could never write the way do what I do or they’d never need to write the book if they knew the end, I just smile and continue doing as I’ve done. The way I write works for me, so why switch things up?