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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > May 2016 > PEN PUSHERS PLAYING WITH CHRONOLOGY


Time for some exercises, with Lizzie Enfield

I was recently running a workshop with a creative writing tutor who advocated that the best way to finish a novel was to write in the third person and chronologically. We were chalk and cheese – I am a fan of various persons and jumping about all over the place! My latest novel (out next year) has a reverse timeline; beginning towards the end of the two main protagonists’ lives and ending when they are children. Starting at the very beginning might be ‘a very good place to start’ for Julie Andrews but if you talk to someone, ask them about themselves, hardly anyone will revert to the moment of their birth. More likely they begin with where they are now and then fill in some of the background.

Of course I’m not suggesting that writers always feel a need to start at the very beginning but I have noticed a tendency among some, especially when they are starting out, to pay greater respect to chronology than I think it deserves.

If you are telling a story, you tend to pull in details from here and there, with very little regard to when they happened. For some reason, when you are writing a story this takes on greater importance.

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