Writing Tip #5
“Begin at the end.”
— John Truby, The Anatomy of Story, p. 52 —
John Truby's recommendation to "begin at the end" has been one of the most valuable pieces of writing advice that I have ever found. For years (yes, literally years) my writing was stuck because I could never figure out where to start or how to form a solid beginning. As a result, my writing would stop dead in its tracks, false start after false start.
All this changed when I started applying Truby's insights to my writing process. According to Truby, all stories can be viewed as stories of change, something that he refers to as the "dramatic code". By starting at the end and working backwards, you determine just how far the characters will be able to change.
In my case this little tidbit took care of two problems. First it gave me a viable starting point. Second it allowed me to find the beginning of the story in an unforced, organic manner. Perhaps just as importantly, Truby's recommendation to "start at the end" can be applied to practically any form of story.
Even when structuring lessons for teaching I find myself "beginning at the end" - focusing on what the desired outcomes are, then organically working backwards to achieve the desired result.
From my interests and research into myth I naturally tend to view writing as way to take the reader on a journey. Although the reader might not know exactly where they are going, it is important for the storyteller to have a clear view of the end in sight - allowing the reader to relax and enjoy the ride.