Episode 74: Writing Backwards to Write Forwards

It’s the final stretch in the race towards the holidays and the New Year, and we at Mom Writes are right there with you. It’s a challenge to find a way to get everything done: school projects, school parties, last minute gifts because you realize you forgot Great Aunt Muriel, finding enough stamps to send the cards (heck, finding all the addresses to put on the cards)… PLUS all the regular stuff. Like laundry. And dinner.

And writing.

Do yourself a favor and breathe. Then give yourself the gift of grace. The good things is, grace is free. And unlike Prime shipping, it’s instant. You can’t do it all, and kidding yourself that you can just leads to extra holiday stress.

The first 10 minutes we spend chatting about my up-coming move and my disappointment that the sellers of our new house wouldn’t leave me their pig. All of this gets loosely connected to writing and two of our favorite writers: Lori Richmond and KJ Dell’Antonia. If you aren’t into the chit-chat, I suggest skipping ahead roughly 10 minutes!

Next we dig into my assignment for the week. Last week, I paused in writing forward to look back and sketch out my (three!) books. I also summarized my character's backstories, which went a long way in figuring out where my characters end up and nailing down the rules of the particular magic in the book. Again, the iterative nature of writing comes through as we go again and again through our stories, building our worlds and our characters and plot. The plot really does thicken, along with everything else!

"I didn't know what I needed in order to make my world stick together. I had the basics, but it wasn't until I started asking these questions of myself that I really could answer them." - Abby Mathews

My backstory for the parents in my book is actually very adult (no, not like that) - just real adults, with real problems. I wrote how they met, what the problems were, and what really happened to Bernadette's mom. I even wrote out the timeline of what happens during Bernadette's early life so that her story makes sense. As I wrote this backstory, I was very conscious to leave out the details that don't matter and stick directly to what actually mattered to my story. Now, I have to figure out how and where to put this information over the course of three books!

"How do you take this information that you now know, and weave it into the book in a way that's organic?" - Jennie Nash

Jennie tells me I have a few options. I can go back to the very beginning and weave the "golden thread" (as Jennie calls it), sprinkling in and dotting in clues and information. Or, I could start where I am right now, knowing there are big revaluations coming for my character, and write forward with that new information (and later on during revisions go back and weave in those other bits). I’m dealing with not only the backstory timeline, but the story-present timeline, and a very important piece - what does Bernadette know, and when does she know it. I need to find big moments of revelation for my character and start to plant clues so we can watch Bernadette can figure it out for herself. Jennie uses the example of JK Rowling's Harry Potter to point out the layers in the story - we know what's coming in the story from the second book, but we still read through all of them to find out how it happens. 

Lastly, we mention another of our favorite people ever: Dan Blank! I had the idea to get Dan to come back on the show and talk about creative obsession. (We’ve already released that episode, by the way! It’s Episode 49: Creative Obsession with Dan Blank. So if you missed it, might I suggest giving it a listen sometime.)

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