Writing in Reverse

Yesterday, as I was driving into work, a classic song from the 80s came on the radio. It was one of those multitude of songs that kind of all fade into one big mass of songs (perhaps you know the type–one of those that immediately make me think of Hugh Grant and his thrown hip in Music and Lyrics). But like most pop songs that are still played today, it had a sharp hook that resonated with the basic human condition.

I’m not sure what it was about that song at that time, but I suddenly felt a story flowing.

Don’t confuse that with the strange thing that happens where a story pops into your mind fully formed. This had no form. I didn’t know the characters or the details behind them. I didn’t know what they did or what their background was. But I knew the basic flow of the story, the beat of its drum, and the voice of its narrative. I knew what it was about.

For me, this is writing in reverse. I usually know character before I get going too far, and I often know much about the plot before I get too far (though lately this has changed a bit). But I almost never know what the story is about until the shitty first draft is fully done.

This morning I sat down and wrote nearly a thousand words of new fiction in under an hour. It was great fun to actually know what the story is about during this shitty first draft stage. I’m sure I’m still writing a shitty first draft. I don’t think I can get rid of that part of the process–but perhaps it’ll be a little less shitty, perhaps not. I dunno.

All I can say is that it’s fun.

My only problem, of course, it that I’ve got this overbearing pop-song earworm from the 80s permeating my brain.

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