Writing To Sell: Never Mind The Beginning, Start At The End

When you’re writing to sell, you know that speed matters: you have a deadline. It may be a self-imposed deadline, or a client is waiting for your words. Either way, you haven’t the luxury of procrastination.

Recently, in a chat about her novel, a fiction writing student said snappishly: “I wouldn’t procrastinate at all, if I could only get the beginning right.”

I could feel her pain. The first page of a novel matters, because you’re trying to find the voice of the book. You know it when you’ve got it, as Hilary Mantel did, with the first paragraphs of Wolf Hall.

Since the student was frustrated and ready to toss away several weeks of work, I suggested that instead of trying to write the first page, she start at the end: “Why not write the final page?”

It often pays to start at the end.

When you’re writing to sell, start at the end

Stephen R. Covey, in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests you: “start with the end in mind.”

Wise words.

My student got me thinking about how often I start with the end. I do it with:

  • Copywriting and ghostwriting clients, asking “what results do you want?”
  • Books. Before I write a single word of an outline or anything else, I write the book’s blurb (description.)
  • Projects. If I’m considering a project, I write a project description. That description is the seed of a proposal, or a sales page.

Why start with your vision of the end of a project?

Years ago, I began writing a project description as soon as someone gave me a commission. It made all the difference. Projects flowed smoothly. Unfortunately I’d forget this valuable practice, and struggle until I remembered it again.

Although the change is subtle, starting at the end changes your mindset. You’re more confident.

It makes sense, when you’re writing to sell. Not only does this process help you to avoid procrastination, it gives you freedom, and helps you to write faster, because you know where you’re headed.

When you’re writing to sell, begin with the end in mind

Did my fiction writing student find the novel’s voice, and end her procrastination when she wrote the last page of her novel?

Indeed she did. She reports that on the same day we spoke, she was heading home from the supermarket. She had to pull off the freeway: she heard the novel’s final conversation in her head.

Huge trucks roaring past rocked her car… But she ignored them, while scribbling the words: she’d found her novel’s voice.

If you’re struggling, try starting with the end of your project. It may help.


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