Writerly Advice: Begin With The End In Mind

I originally posted this last summer, when I first got Scrivener and began plotting out my current work in progress.  Today, I find myself revisiting this post as I approach the completion of that very same work in progress.  Enjoy!

As a writer, I like to think of myself as a plotter with pantsing tendencies. I suppose, who isn’t? But I am not the sort of writer who can easily pants my way through writing a section if I don’t know where I’m headed.

Case in point, I spent the better part of a year working on my 2013 NaNo. I was in love with the idea. I had a set of cool characters, and an intriguing story idea that was truly “out there”. Problem was I couldn’t see the end. Not really. I was meandering through the character’s lives creating scenarios for them that didn’t seem to lead to any closure. Conflict was there, sure, but no closure. I still am in love with the story idea. My characters for that one are still close to me. But it just wasn’t happening. It saddened me that these characters were stuck in limbo and couldn’t get out. I have since set that story aside…for now.

Jump ahead a year. I had an idea for a novel floating round in my head, and this idea came to me in the form of scenes. The scenes were in no particular order, simply a couple of common characters, experiencing some funny little things as part of their lives. I loved their personalities, and thought it might be time to organize their story more structurally. Problem was, once again, I couldn’t tell where the character’s would be at the end. Then I remembered: “Begin With The End In Mind”—One of the Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, book, by Stephen R. Covey.

That idea, obviously, is great advice for anyone in almost any situation. I have used the it many times in my life, especially to set goals. As a writer, it’s also true, in a very literal sense. By knowing where the characters will start and finish their journey, it makes it a lot easier to connect those dots to make a believable story (even if it’s crazy fiction).

Back to the dilemma with my new story idea. As many of you know from Twitter, I recently purchased Scrivener. It’s not that I didn’t know about it for years, it’s just that I am a PC user, and for a while Scrivener as only available for Mac. I was happy to learn it was available for me to use at this time!

Anyhow, one of the features, “corkboard”, made it really super easy to not only create plot/scene cards for my for my story idea, but once created, each plot card could be manipulated and moved around easily. In no time, I had a complete plan for my characters, start to finish.

This doesn’t mean that things won’t change as I go along; I am a bit of a pantser after all. But knowing that the overall structure is there if I need it is a big help in avoiding potential writer’s block. When I actually sat down to begin writing, I could focus on certain scenes, either in order or not. The structure for the book is there, keeping my ideas together.

Whether you use Scrivener, or Word, or any other program, if you begin with the end in mind, it can be a powerful tool as a writer. You will be less likely to plot-wander, and in my case, more likely to finish.  And who knows.  I wonder if I go back and plot out my limbo-ed 2013 NaNo using Scrivener’s corkboard, if that story and those character’s might see the light of day.

What strategies do you use to plot out your story ideas? I’d love to hear from you!

And, if you are planning to do NaNoWriMo 2014 this year, chime in! I am working on a blog mini-series I’d love you to take part in.

Happy writing, everyone!

5 comments on “Writerly Advice: Begin With The End In Mind

  1. joylennick says:

    Hi Susan Have never come cross the word ‘pantsing’ before?! As a prisoner of words – really! – my head, like most other writer’s heads, is constantly sieving and re-sieving ideas for plots: beginnings, middles and endings. I find it easier to fit in the middle part if I have a rough idea of the ending. That said, I know that characters can take you on maze-like journeys sometimes and mess things up!
    If you have, say, three strong characters, it maybe an idea to put them in a dramatic situation: trapped in an earthquake/coach breakdown/siege/fight for principles and you can play them against/for each other, giving then a common bond and see who comes out as the most durable.
    My next novel’s already mapped out so maybe I’ll use one of the above ideas for a few short stories. The list of scenarios really is endless, isn’t it! All part and parcel of the fun…

    Liked by 1 person

    • smnystoriak says:

      Hi Joy,
      A lot of the people I spoke to about this say similar things. I am one of those people. When ideas come to me they aren’t always in any tangible order. Heck! Sometimes they aren’t even related! The pantser in me always enjoys the maze that my characters take me on! I have enjoyed working through the corkboard to map out my current story. I don’t think I will have to shelve this one 🙂


  2. […] using Scrivener’s Cork Board. I write about my discovery and first impressions of that software, here. This manuscript, which began as an exercise in how to use the famed software, has developed into a […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s