It’s Tuesday, January 3rd and I’m sitting here trying to decide what I want to write for my IWSG post. I’m not feeling particularly insecure today. I found out over the weekend that I was the ‘Runner UP’ in the December WEP Challenge and for me, that was a pretty big deal.
Now, you might be thinking, Geez! that’s second place (or as my kids would say, the first loser-rude as that may be), but coming in second out of twenty on only my second time entering this Challenge, was a pretty big deal to me. ALSO, the piece I entered was one of the short stories that I have been accumulating as part of my ‘memoir’. Yeah, you read that right, I’ve been working on a memoir. I had started thinking that it would never see the light of day. Why? Because it’s so personal. Let me explain.
I had the good fortune to be raised by two especially wacky people. I’m an only child and my parents were well into their forties when I was born. They had tried before and my mother suffered numerous miscarriages and even a still born baby. I never doubted for a minute that I was loved and wanted. I admit while I was a teenager there were moments when I doubted my love and/or need for them, but in retrospect…what a fool I was. My mother left this world way too early and needless to say I was much too young to be without her, but that’s a choice we don’t get to make. Daddy lived to be ninety and we had our ups and downs but, today I can honestly say I am who I am because of them and their somewhat unorthodox upbringing.
My love for them and the personal nature of my ‘memoir stories’ make them hard to share. As a writer I’m learning to develop a thicker skin when it comes to critiques of my work, but when it comes to the non-fiction of my life, it’s a whole ‘nother story. I’m very protective of my parents and the memories of our life together. I’m worried that I don’t have the skill to tell these stories in a manner that would convey the love, devotion and even the spiritual nature of our relationship, through some of the outrageous experiences we’ve shared.
Anyway… this brings me back to the WEP Challenge ‘Runner Up’ win. What an incredible boost to not only my ego, but the possible release of some of these stories that are so near and dear to my heart.
The IWSG question of the month is:
What writing rule do you wish you had never heard?
BACKSTORY! That pesky rule that says never ever have an ‘info dump’ of BACKSTORY, but rather dole it out slowly. Sometimes that’s very hard. Sometimes all that BACKSDTORY, sets the time, place, or world of the story. Sometimes that BACKSTORY is integral to character development.
I’ve had several critiques of a WIP that uses BACKSTORY in exactly this (these really, because it’s more than one) reason, and the critiques are conflicting. they go from, ‘Never ever do this.’ To, ‘go ahead and break this rule, because it’s really good and necessary’. I get confused and feel conflicted. I guess I’ll just have to go with my gut and submit it with the BACKSTORY as an info dump and let the professionals tell me, if this is a rule that can be broken, and if I have the skill to break it properly.
I have always had a hard time with rules. Go ahead, blame my parents.
The IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, today it has grown so much, he has a lot of help pulling it off. If you want to know more, or would like to read other insightful posts on this topic, please go HERE for a complete list of the participants. While you’re there give a shout-out and thank you to Mr.
Cavanaugh and the others who work so hard to bring this monthly blog-hop your way.
Congratulations on second place. Hope that spurs you to keep writing stories about your upbringing. Don't let any harsh critiques stop you.ReplyDelete
Thanks Alex. Some good advice.Delete
Yeah, screw critiques sometimes, go with your gut and what works best. Damn any stick up their butt rule. Congrats on second too!ReplyDelete
Thanks Pat. Like I said I'm growing a thicker skin where most things are concerned. This memoir stuff is gonna take me a little longer.Delete
Congratulations on your WEP success, and best of luck with your memoir.ReplyDelete
Backstory can be a big challenge. I've been guilty of info duping on numerous occasions. I've been getting better at weaving backstory in through the course of a story, but I still have a lot to learn.
Thanks, L.G. I appreciate the support.
Backstory is a bugger. I'm trying to incorporate what I'm learning, while still going with my gut on what I think works best.
Hey, a hearty CONGRATULATIONS on winning Runner Up in the contest, FAE. I guess that's the last time you'll ever ask my opinion on a piece you've written, eh? Well, I've never been shy about saying... UHP! I'M AN IDIOT!ReplyDelete
Besides, I couldn't write my way out of a wet paper bag. Asking me for a critique of a written piece is like asking me to taste-test some $500 bottle of Tequila. I'd say: "Yeah, it's alright. Where do you keep the salt and lime juice?"
I have a strong opinion 'bout how backstory should be handled in a novel but... only a fool would ask me what it is.
'Loyal American Underground'
Thanks, I appreciate it. Also, I think you're mistaken about something. This win was for that memoir piece that was my last blog post, not the one I asked your opinion on. The jury is still out on that one. Decisions w3on't be made until the end of February. So, you may NOT be an idiot...ye3t! I'll let you know.Delete
OK, I'll bite...how should you handle backstory in a novel. Ham ha,ha!
Personal stories are DEFINITELY the hardest to write, and hardest to share. I wrote an article about my special needs brother after he passed away, and I was a wreck. Tears dripping down the face as I struggled to put one word in front of another... Just getting those words down, you deserve a medal.ReplyDelete
Backstory? Yeah. That's a tricky beast--figuring out how much is just for the writer, and how much is for the reader, and then sprinkling it in where it belong. Time and distance really help in gauging that.
You are so right on both counts, writing and releasing memoir and backstory. Both can be a real bear and even worse if you want to do them right.Delete
Totally. Thank goodness we have beta readers who give us an outside perspective on things, eh?Delete
Congratulations (again) on your WEP success. And success it was. And deserved.ReplyDelete
Personal stories are the hardest to tell. But also the strongest.
Thanks EC, your continued support is greatly appreciated.Delete
I was runner up after a few tries when the WEP was the RFW and I wasn't co-host. It made my year! So yes, celebrate and use that positivity to your benefit! You deserve it. I also want to write a memoir, and wow, that's a hard task so - Kudos!
Thanks again, and again Yolanda. Best of luck with your memoir. It's hard to do and even harder to release it to the public, but when you do and get some positive feedback it's even better than the good things said about your fiction.Delete
Any kind of win is a good win!ReplyDelete
Not telling back story can be soooo hard!
Thanks Bish,appreciate it.Delete
Sometimes "almost" is close enough. I think WEP is a very good place to experiment, and put writings out there that an author just needs some confidence in publication. Its a supportive environment, even with the (author discretion) invitation for feedback. Prompt writing sites are good exercise for the writing brain. I don't believe an author needs to develop such a thick skin they are willing to slough off any amount of abuse, and the WEP hosts insure feedback is constructive, not abusive, which allows much more freedom of experimentation for some insecure authors. I'm glad you sucked in your breath and participated. Savor that award and let it encourage you to write and submit more often.ReplyDelete
When it comes to writing mentors, Denise and Yolanda are great resources. And when you're ready to submit your memoir, I'd suggest contacting Karen Gowen (blog site Coming Down The Mountain) of WiDo publishing. And L Diane Wolfe of LeMure Publishing (she is an IWSG site moderator). Both these publishers work with authors to perfect an intriguing memoir.
Memoir is probably the most difficult and emotionally taxing genre to write in. Pouring your heart and soul out to strangers is not easy. Too scary for me; takes a lot of courage, not just to write and submit, but to share with critique partners.
Funny you should pick info dump/back story as your peeve for this question. Did Rick tell you how much I nagged on him about it? Such a balancing act to get just the right amount to move the story along. Memoir would be even more difficult to sort out because your personal story is mostly backstory, and all important.
I was listening to a book on CD during my travels this week that had a LOT of backstory. The book was titled A GOOD MARRIAGE, written by Stephen King and first appeared in his anthology FULL DARK, NO STARS. That is one of my favorite anthologies by King; and nearly every story is stuffed with backstory. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you pick it up - or I could loan it to you. But, A Good Marriage really fits the back-story issue, and may help you see how its woven in. In general though, I think a reader either likes backstory, or doesn't, and readers who prefer more action are likely not your target audience anyway. Memoir and literary readers have a higher tolerance (almost a requirement) for info and backstory.
I guess what I'm saying is, research your target audience and genre, and don't adhere to a "general" rule of fiction.
Ach; too long a comment. Nice to see you blogging again FAE. Good luck with the writing projects; and Happy New Year.
Hey lady, glad to see you here. I'm really enjoying the WEP Challenge, and it's through your previous participation that I found them.Delete
I'll look for that King Anthology, the backstory has almost always been a problem for me.
Rick and thev'info dump', ha, this is the first I've heard of it, but you know we don't talk. Ha!
I've got to get my butt back over to your place. Got discouraged after blogger ate my comment.
Congratulations on the high-ranking on your story. Second place is almost as good as first place (and in some cases better). I've gotten to the point where I have more appreciation for a memoir or some true story that is well told than a piece of fiction. Memoir gives us a point of comparison and contrast with our own lives and is interesting to see what connects us as well as makes us unique. Anyone can make up a story, but the truth when told truly is hard to beat.ReplyDelete
I wish you well with your future efforts.
Tossing It Out
Thanks Lee. That memoir stuff is hard to do and do well. Of cours, you want it to be interesting and heartfelt and even humorous at times, but it's so personal.Delete
Second place is a pretty big deal! Cheers to that!ReplyDelete
And honestly, when I critique someone's novel, I don't critique their style, because that's THEIR style. If you like using backstory and I don't, then so be it. That doesn't make it wrong. Look at it this way; the first chapter of Game of Thrones is 10 pages of backstory about characters who aren't even in the novel. It just sets the stage. And in it, George R.R. Martin uses phrases like "the wind was so cold you could feel it in your bones" when every agent/editor I've ever met has said do not put 'you' in a story because that's wrong! Put 'one'!
George R.R. Martin is one of the most successful authors of our generation, and he broke two of these so-called rules in his first chapter alone. So in other words, as long as you pull it off well, nobody cares about the rules.
Thank guys, I really appreciate your comment.Delete
I don't know if I pull it off well, but the history at the beginning of my WIP sets, the one, character and voice of my MC. To me it seems important and a whole lot more than a general info dump. AI intend to work on this on seriously this year and will hopefully have the opportunity to se what an editor, agent, or even ublisher thinks.
Yeah, but you can keep your parents alive with your memories. And I love your storytelling.ReplyDelete
Awe thanks, Donna. What a wonderful way to look at it.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the great resource buddy, the resource you have provided is really useful for me.
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