Writing in Reverse

In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the fact that my car was totaled in a June hailstorm. That unfortunate event necessitated a new car. My old car had a backup camera, but this car has a BACKUP CAMERA! It’s amazing. It has this beeping-warning system that lets me know if someone is passing behind me or if I’m getting close to backing into something. The other day I was backing out of my garage, looking at the view in the backup camera, when the phrase Writing in Reverse just popped into my head. You may have noticed from my posts here that I love analogies. So when I thought about Writing in Reverse, I knew I had to use this for a post.

Before Writing in Reverse, I have to get my my story down. So I just drive/write a first draft. Yes, I do need to have a destination in mind­—a character, the semblance of a plot or structure, events to drive my story forward, etc. I need to keep the Rules of the Road/Genre in mind as I write. I need to be aware of traffic/the audience I’m writing for, and I need to watch my speed limit/word count. OK, sometimes I do go a few MPH/WPM (word per manuscript) over knowing I can probably get by with it, but I don’t want my speed/word count to get completely out of control. So, pretty much, I just drive/write on. The first draft is a hugely important part of writing. If I never do this part, I’ll never get anywhere. My ideas will be stuck at home and never see the light of day. Never get out into the world. And once the first draft is finished, I do feel like I’ve been somewhere. But I know this same journey will become very familiar . . .

. . . because now comes Writing in Reverse/revision.

Screenshot 2014-12-20 19.58.47

It’s time to take the same drive using my backup camera. It will be much slower. I will cut my speed limit to a crawl. Each twist and turn will require my complete attention. I will be more cautious and more aware of any obstacles that will hinder my story. I will listen to my internal beeps. I will listen to my critique group who will make me aware of my blind spots. This journey will take much longer than my first draft, but it has to be taken to get to that “sweet spot” for submission. I know this. It’s tough. But it must be done. And it’s worth it.

Recently my second deal was announced. A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE sold to Maria Modugno at Random House Children’s who also bought THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT. It will be illustrated by Ben Mantle who also illustrated my dragon story. Talk about Writing in Reverse! I had 102 “Saved As” files of A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE. Not all were complete rewrites, but all had tweaks. Some major, some minor. That’s a lotta Writing in Reverse. But it served me well. When I emailed Tricia (love my agent) that 102nd file, she deemed it “ready to go”. In two days, we heard back from Maria. She wanted my story 🙂

So make sure you use a BACKUP CAMERA! A really good one. Take that slow, Writing-in-Reverse journey where you pay attention to every detail and find that “sweet spot” before submitting. It will be worth it!

writing in reverse final


penny editedPenny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHTis coming from Random House Children’s Publishing August 4, 2015. Also, coming from Random House Children’s is A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, Spring, 2016. You can follow Penny on on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. She is represented by Tricia Lawrence.


Filed under Picture books, Uncategorized

17 responses to “Writing in Reverse

  1. What a great analogy, Penny. I can think of so many ways “writing in reverse” applies to my own process. And 102 drafts! That’s amazing! Those are the details that I think are great encouragement to keep pushing on, because what if you had given up on that story at the 101st draft?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cathy Ballou Mealey

    So happy for you Penny! Great advice/analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Janet Fox

    I love this analogy! Nice graphics, too. 🙂 And hang onto those 102 drafts because kids – and fellow writers – would love to see what it takes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mariagianferrari

    I love the analogy too, Penny! Looking forward to reading your books!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rebecca C

    I love that expression ‘Writing in Reverse’–may have to borrow that–and I love the analogy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pamela Courtney

    As writers, we tend to forget about the many, many, many revisions that have to take place to get to our planned destination. I wrestle with the first draft, trying to revise as I go. It’s an effort in futility, I know. No first draft. No story! I guess I am trying to avoid the many back and forth trips. You just showed me how prudent it is to get the idea down. Then prepare myself for the long haul of writing. Thank you for this post. Such a help, Penny.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 102 drafts! Holy dragons!

    I love your final picture. Definitely something to refer back to the next time I dig into a big revision (and I have one coming after the new year).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 102. Wow, Penny. You are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. tinamcho

    Awesome analogy, Penny! Thanks for sharing!


  10. tamaraellissmith

    Awesome analogy! Thank you Penny…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice, Penny. I love the analogy. I will be backing up a lot this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. How exciting that your second story was deemed “ready to go!” Must be a great feeling. Congratulations on book #2!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Penny,
    In my opinion –
    There Was a Young Writer who Swallowed a Phrase!
    Luv that your back-up guardian Car Guru lead you to this clever Writing-in-Reverse analogy.
    It’s something we’ll all remember – thanks.
    I luv both p.b. titles! And they sound like ones the kids will luv me to read to them, in circle time where I volunteer.
    Happy New Writing Year, too!


    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a perfect analogy, Penny! You have such a way with wheels, er, words.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mary Worley

    This is a great analogy! Thanks for sharing that you had 102 files—some rewrites, some with tweaks. While I know that I need to find my own process, it’s reassuring to hear about a similar process from a published author. Congratulations on the new book.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Reflection and a Tip From a Critique Ninja | Penny Parker Klostermann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.