Feeling like you need a boost, to share in other writers’ failures unhappiness even when they’ve achieved so-called success? I really like what Anne Enright has to say:
‘ You must recognise that failure is 90% emotion, 10% self-fulfilling reality, and the fact that we are haunted by it is neither here nor there. The zen of it is that success and failure are both an illusion, that these illusions will keep you from the desk, they will spoil your talent; they will eat away at your life and your sleep and the way you speak to the people you love.’
Remember, just keep writing a really good book. The best you can. Make that your definition of success.
Here’s the rest of the article:
Back story is difficult. It’s essentially what the writer wants you to know about their character – the who and why – but what the character them self doesn’t get the opportunity to tell you.
Some writers and editors say cut it out altogether because it’s telling (not showing) and interrupts the flow of your story by taking readers out of the action.
I’m not of that view, but if you’re going to use it, here are some ideas on how to make it most effective:
- Break backstory up into short paragraphs or even sentences such as asides. That way you’re inserting interesting tidbits as the story moves on rather than great chunks of history that make readers fall asleep, or worse still, put your story down for good.
- Be sparing. Decide what it is you really need to say about the character. This way you can pare back four paragraphs of backstory into one concise, powerful and to the point paragraph or less.
- Pace your backstory so it’s eked out over the entire story rather than appearing in one chapter early on, which is a real trap. That way you’re using it to build and reveal character slowly.
- Also ensure a balance between backstory and the present moment. Backstory should be used sparingly. Did I say that already?
- Link backstory to action. Maybe your character is having a crisis of confidence so you flashback to an incident or summarise their family history to explain where this behaviour came from.
- Ask yourself if instead you can include backstory by having your characters say something to another character. That way the reader learns about their history but in the context of the present moment.
- Make backstory in deep point of view, not authorial. It needs to be in your character’s voice with their emotion so it’s meaningful and not a history lesson.
I’m off to cull and disperse more backstory in my MS. Good luck!
For whatever reason you’ve had a break from writing. Perhaps life happened, you had a holiday, you felt burnt out or were just sick of your own words. Writing breaks can be good as they can:
- Re-energise and refresh your writing enthusiasm
- Give you a new perspective
- Re-inspire you
- Allow your subconscious to solve writing challenges
- Make you miss and remember why you write
- Heal or prevent burnout
But how do you get back into it? The page seems daunting. You re-read what you wrote before and you aren’t sure if you can write that well again (It was a fluke. Not!). Or perhaps you don’t like what you wrote and it hits you that there’s more rewriting to be done.
Here are some ways to get back into it:
- Do morning pages, even if only for a few days or a week. They really are the way back into creativity versus rote writing. I’ve written about them here.
- Just do it. Take a breath, sit down (or stand if you’re like me) and begin. It may not be as bad as you think.
- Write something, anything to get your juices flowing again. A journal, a short but rich descriptive piece about your cat or big toe, a room or people you’ve watched in the street. A few paragraphs will do.
- Copy a page from one of your favourite author’s books. This is always a good way to get our writing going no matter whether you’ve had a break, need inspiration or want to take your writing up a notch. It’s a good way to learn from others you aspire to.
- Don’t forget to read good writing. That’s always motivating.
Don’t forget to have fun. You write for a reason, because you want to, you need to. Remember and honour that.