The Science of Writing with Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda is the author of the young adult novels FRACTURE, HYSTERIA, VENGEANCE, SOULPRINT, and THE SAFEST LIES. Her first novel for adults, ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, will be released on June 28, 2016 and I will officially be calling in "binge reading" to work! I can't wait to get my hands on this thriller that's being likened to THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE, two of my favorites.

We asked Megan what is was like to write this suspenseful novel - her first for adults and one that's also told in reverse. Read on for her brilliant insight into the relationship between creativity and the scientific process in creating a compelling story, even if it takes many, many tries.  


The Science of Writing

By: Megan Miranda

I’ve long heard that the science field and fiction writing rely on opposite sides of the brain, that they are separate things: one, purely analytical; the other, a creative pursuit, primarily an art.


But I’m not sure that’s true. In both fields, I believe there are times to look at a project analytically, and times to think creatively. And for me, stepping back and taking a scientific approach to the writing process was one of the things that made my latest book, ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, possible.


This was a story I set out to tell in reverse, starting the story on Day 15 and ending it on Day 1.


I will confess: I did not get it right the first time. I did not get it right the second time, either. In fact, I’ve sort of lost track of how many times I didn’t get it right.


From one perspective, each incomplete draft could be seen as evidence that this structure would not work. And yet, from the science point of view, each unsuccessful attempt was also evidence of progress.


There’s an inherent trial and error built into the scientific process, an understanding that not all outcomes will be successful. One experiment that does not yield the hoped for results isn’t failure, but rather a step in the process—something from which you can still gain information to use going forward. This is the outlook I took in order to ultimately bring this book to life.


The experiment was in diving into the story, drafting enough to get a feel for the structure, and how it was working. But the analysis took a removal, to look at something objectively, to ask for outside eyes, and opinions. To step back and decide: What’s working? What’s not?


And then deciding on the next steps. Deciding which variables to change. How to cut the structure. How to make sure the characters still progressed in a forward motion, the way it would be read. How to make sure the threads were clear, the story easy to follow, at turns both surprising and logical.


I opened up a spreadsheet, something I really hadn’t done since my days working in Biotech. But here I was again, armed with data. For each chunk of time, Day 15 to Day 1, I had two different sets of information:

-What the reader knew at that point in time.

-What the narrator knew at that point in time.


I realized I was searching for the path that would stay true to each of these threads. This was the story. I knew when I finally hit it. It was not a moment I could point out on the spreadsheet, though this was the process that eventually led me here.


No, instead it was a feeling. That moment when the pieces of plot and structure, character and theme all click together, the creative side takes over again, and you have, at last, your story.


What do you think about blending scientific and creative approaches to your writing? Have you done something similar? Tell us in the comments!



Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

About Megan

Megan Miranda is the author of the young adult novels FRACTURE, HYSTERIA, VENGEANCE, SOULPRINT, and THE SAFEST LIES (May, 2016). Her first novel for adults, ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, will be published by Simon & Schuster in July, 2016. Megan has a degree in Biology from MIT and currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and two children.
Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter, or visit

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  • Congratulations on having this book published, Megan.  Sounds like a great summer thriller!   Thank you for your insight.  I think that all stories that weave together a variety  of threads and creates a suspenseful read rely on both sides of the brain.  You've inspired me to create a spreadsheet to work on my own novel's plot, which I haven't progressed with since November (2015).

  • Penny Taylor

    I definitely get the left brain/right brain thing. As a matter of fact, I figured it out when someone gave me a book Drawing With the Right Side of the Brain. I drew stick figures my entire life until I got that book. I found out that it wasn't that I couldn't draw, it was that I wasn't looking at what I was drawing in the same way an artist does. To train my brain to draw I had to learn to turn off the left side. (By the way, if you can't draw... get this book. It's amazing. You, CAN draw.)

    As for left brain/right brain writing and going scientific. I do it all the time. One thing I've done is when I break down a novel in a genre I want to study better. I'll go through chapter by chapter and write down the first line, the last line (sometimes a couple if it's dialogue and doesn't make sense without a couple of lines. I'll also write down how many pages the chapter is, then a brief synopsis of what the chapter covers. At the end of the book I've got a map of what's happened, story, arcs, character development, and hooks that lead into and out of chapters. I can also tell what works and what doesn't. When I compare this to something I'm working on I can get a better idea of where I'm hung up, or even what I'm doing right. Hey... I'm all for science in the arts.