My latest work in progress, Come Apart, has been a year long experiment to see if I could write the final chapter of a book first and then build the rest of the novel around that final chapter. I can tell you that the progress has been a challenge.
This all started when I read Pines by Blake Crouch, a novel full of twists, turns and exciting surprises. The science fiction element of the novel was hidden for some time, but two thirds of the way through the book became dreamlike and powerful, ending with a twist that rivaled any Hitchcock film.
I absolutely loved it, and wanted to do something similar with an original story. I also wanted to write something with a thematic premise that was a little personal in that I work with students in alternative education who make awful choices with their lives or are forced into terrible choices by those who "raise" them. I wanted to write a novel where the theme was that of wasted lives and how one can regain respect from others who have been abused or let down by their choices.
I think I've done it. I'm one chapter away from finishing the novel and I think I've successfully produced something that is more unique and thought provoking than anything I've written so far.
I will have to say that the chapter before the written final chapter has been the hardest work I have done as a writer. Trying to tie in all of the elements in the end has been a chore, but it has helped my writing ability considerably, forcing me to power through and sometimes write new chapters earlier in the book to fill in the gaps. Using Scrivener has been a must for this as each chapter is easily moved around throughout the book with a simple click and drag of a mouse.
I will spend a couple of months editing and revising it before sending it to my proofers. Hopefully I'll have it ready for release in late February or early March.
I already have two novels I can write, one of them a humorous satire of American life through the story of an insanely dashing hero with a biographer sidekick who is an absolute coward, set in a far galaxy where the old and the new mix into an amalgam of weirdness that will be both fun and easy to write. The second is a dystopian story about androids, what it means to be human, the growing power of corporations and the rape of the environment...plus it's a love story with a huge element of peril, sort of a cross between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Brave New World.
Have any of you ever written the final chapter first and then written the entire book around it? Post with comments below as always, and happy Thanksgiving!