For a few months, I worked to get my future noir story, Blanc Noir, sorted out. I didn’t have to sort the entire story out, I just needed a path from one set of events to another. My problem was that there weren’t any sets of events, much less a path between them. I knew some things that needed to happen and I had the framework of several characters, but I didn’t have a good way to put them together.
Once I figured out the end scene, I felt better about the story, but I didn’t know anything else. Then I decided to do what a lot of puzzle solvers do: Work Backwards.
For Blanc Noir, I took a few purposeful steps to sort out the story itself. Usually, I would start a word document or arrange all the planned scenes in Scrivener. Since those things weren’t working, I found a small notepad that had enough sheets–not pages–that would cover the number of chapters I would need. If I didn’t know my novels run around fifty chapters, this wouldn’t work.
Starting with the last sheet, or the next to last page, I wrote a few basic notes as to what I’d like to see in the last chapter. Then I turned back to the sheet before and asked myself what events would cause the last chapter, as well as what events would come together in a single chapter to make that work. Then I went back another page and repeated the process.
This isn’t a fast process. The idea is to make you think about the details of the story in such a way that building it backwards will create an event-based outline from the start of the notepad to the back.
Next comes taking that notepad and typing out the elements into an outline, word .doc, or Scrivener file. With the individual elements on hand, typing the actual story should come with greater ease. And if you’re worried about discovery writing, just remember that the path you create will be as open or detailed as you want it to be. This is just supposed to make a path from beginning to end, starting with the last brick instead of the first.