This is a table of bric-a-brac in a French market. The wooden sculpture at the back reminds me of the Shona sculpture that turned up in the first chapter of The First Lie.
Selkie has run away from home with a few clothes and not much else. I wanted her to have a special object that she’d brought with her and an African sculpture of a woman’s head popped into my mind. Selkie has carried this sculpture halfway across the world, but when I gave it to her as a keepsake I had know idea why. This is how I write backwards. Something like the sculpture (or an idea or situation) turns up out of the blue and instead of rejecting it because I don’t know what it means, I let it ride. I wait. I let it niggle at me to turn it into something meaningful. The Shona sculpture paid off big time. It makes several meaningful appearances throughout the book, reminding Selkie of qualities she needs to remember. Shona even turns up in the last chapter and not until I was a few paragraphs from the end did I see how the sculpture fit.
The same thing is happening in Book Two. I’m writing the last chapter now, so all the stray ideas and situations throughout the book that have popped up along the way suddenly have to mean something. It’s showdown time. Sometimes I have to talk with my ‘live-in advisor and coffee maker’ about what something might mean to hit on its purpose in the story. That happened yesterday. After a particular concept had sat in the book for several chapters over several months, I discovered why it was there and went back and wrote that meaning into the story. I call it writing backwards. Because this process bypasses ‘plotting’, I find it adds extra layers to the unfolding mystery.