Most of us, when we pick up a book, start at the beginning, proceed through the middle and finally reach the end. Although sometimes, when we are really enjoying a book, the ending comes too soon.
A beginning, middle and ending. That’s what we expect when we read and, if you are like me, you may assume that is the way a book was written. Not so!
A few years ago, just after the arrival of the new millennium (What do they call those first ten years? Has anyone named them? Are they the Twenty-aught-somethings?), I went to Atlanta to visit the Margaret Mitchell Museum where I felt awed and surrounded by words. Margaret Mitchell’s words. Words from Gone With the Wind! And, as you can imagine, I loved it.
When our guide said that Mitchell wrote the entire manuscript of Gone with the Wind backwards – that is she wrote the last chapter first, and then the one before that, and the one before that etc., I was stunned into disbelief. However, since I wrote my own book, Rude Awakening, I have found that statement to be much more credulous.
When I started Rude Awakening, all I knew was the ending. (Or, at least, I thought I knew the ending until, like an addendum, I needed an epilogue.) And although I knew the ending, most of the middle of the book took a lot of work, more work than I could ever have imagined when I began.
So stories don’t just move from point to point in an orderly, readable fashion. They have to be structured and sometimes, as in life, the ending we were expecting just doesn’t emerge. And, like bread, the middle has to be kneaded, and the beginning comes only after the rest of the story is in place.
Oh, wait. Lest I discourage anyone who wants to write, when I used the word “work” in this piece, it was a misstatement. Writing doesn’t take “work.” It takes passion and discipline and dedication. But what it gives back is pleasure. Pure and absolute! So to all you writers and would-be writers – or should I say will-be writers, I say write on! And to all you readers, I say thank you. Thank you very much.