"When a new story starts, it always, always, ALWAYS interrupts an older story already in progress."
This advice comes from the latest Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine by Randy Ingermanson (famous for "the Snowflake Method" for writing novels).
Most of us have heard of this before, referred to as "the ordinary world" - the main character's life before the inciting incident occurs, the event that shakes everything up and makes us keep reading to find out what happens.
But I never realized that the ordinary world, before the story starts, so to speak, has to have a plot of its own. This is different than backstory. My MC's backstory is that a year ago her family was disgraced and lost their noble status (my story is a historical fantasy set at the end of the Roman Empire). She's lost friends as a result of the disgrace, as well as her home and many beloved possessions.
The backstory adds lots of interesting history to the story as it unfolds and the stakes rise. Things happened to her in the past that are going to shape how she handles the rising stakes in the story. But Ingermanson's article got me thinking of how all that great backstory stuff can be amped up a lot more if instead of just referring to things that happened in the past, my story becomes a collision of new plot events with an ongoing plot.
In other words, my girl isn't just sitting around lamenting the disaster that happened in her past. She's actively planning and plotting how to restore her family's reputation and fortune. Then bam - the inciting incident occurs that throws her plans all awry. I love when I read some advice I can see right away how it will help my story.
Now for my weekly Round of Words in Eighty Days (ROW80) update. Only one week left of the 80 days! I should be REALLY motivated at this point to catch up, but complications in life have put a complete halt to my writing. Nothing disastrous, thank goodness, but there was definitely potential for disaster if I didn't drop everything and focus on fixing things before they got out of control (both work and family related).
I am so thankful to my ROW80 support team: Susan Kaye Quinn, Sheri Larsen, and C. Lee McKenzie. Their posts and tweets helped me to stay on track (or at least very close on track) for 8 weeks.
I'm not sure how long it'll take me to get life back on track, but in the meantime, writing has to take low priority. I'm kind of an all-or-nothing gal, not a very good multi-tasker. I'd love to say I could still set aside an hour a day to keep up with the writing, but with all these other pressures, I'm not adding any additional pressure to myself to meet writing goals.
But I always need to read for a half an hour or so at the end of the day to unwind, so my plan is to read the writing I've done so far, instead of other books. That way I can "stay in touch" with my story even if I'm not actively working on it.
I think I can still get "idea work" done even if I'm not actually writing, what I like to call letting "ideas marinate for extra flavor". So I have a #mywana question this week (e.g. We Are Not Alone): anyone else ever had to give up their beloved passion for a while to get through a difficult time?
GUEST POST: "Objects with Secrets, Settings that Excite, Cultures that Expand" by Donald Willerton - I was in an antique store and found an old camel-backed trunk. It was a well-made trunk and in good condition, but it was locked. I could not get it open....
14 hours ago