Today I am pleased to welcome, Jessica McCann, the fabulous author of All Different Kinds of Free, her amazing debut novel. My review of the book is here. Because I love this quote from the book so much, I have to re-publish it here:
“A book is like the best friend you can imagine. Once you read a book, it stays with you forever. And she was right. Next to my children, reading is the greatest blessing I ever got.”
My teenage daughter and her circle of friends love Manga — Asian graphic novels that you read from back to front, right to left. She gave me one to read not long ago, one with a story she thought I would love. I tried to read it, I really did. Just couldn’t do it. It felt completely bass-ackwards reading a book that way, and it prevented me from enjoying the story.
That doesn’t mean “backwards” is wrong, though. My daughter loves reading that way. And (for you older folks) Seinfeld fans might remember a popular episode that aired backwards, scene by scene. It featured the gang flying to India for the wedding of a woman who had long been one of Elaine’s archenemies. Why on Earth would they spend the time and money on such a trip? Because the scenes played out in reverse, we didn’t get the answer to that question until the end of the show. Would that particular episode have been as funny or interesting had we learned the reason in the opening scene? Probably not.
Freelance writer and memoir author Jessica Handler encourages writers to write out of order. “Just because your story follows a timeline doesn’t mean you have to write it linearly,” she says in her article, “Writing without a Map,” in The Writer magazine (May 2011). “If you’re inspired to write a scene other than the one that comes next in your manuscript, go for it. You can put the story in the right order later.”
When I was working on the early drafts of my first novel, the opening five or so chapters in particular felt like one of those Jumble word puzzles — in which the letters are all mixed up and you have a clue to solve or question to answer. I had to re-arrange those chapters several times before the order finally felt right, before the answer become clear.
Does your writing sometimes feel backwards? Don’t give up on it. Just keep writing and keep moving pieces of the story around. Run it backwards and forwards. When it’s right, you’ll know it (even if that means the story plays out backwards), and you’ll hold your readers to the very end… or the beginning.
Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her nonfiction work has been published in Business Week, The Writer and Phoenix magazines, among others. All Different Kinds of Free (Bell Bridge Books, April 2011) is her award-winning debut novel. She welcomes interaction with readers and writers at her website (www.jessicamccann.com) and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).
What are you reading and where are you going?