Backstory and Flashback

In Monthly Mentorship, I support writers by teaching them how to apply thinking to language and integrate writing into their lives, sustainably. We begin by studying sample texts, with the idea that we will eventually become practiced enough to apply whatever craft concept we’re working with, to our own work. In time, this approach improves a writer’s sense of clarity and independence in decision-making. Rather than thinking, “Ok, now what?”, MM writers learn how to decide and implement the best next steps in their drafts, based on the clues they have left themselves on the page.

This month in Monthly Mentorship, we’re talking about structure. Structure is the actual building blocks of the prose itself. Scene, summary, exposition, backstory, flashback, etc. But *selection* is the content itself. How do you decide what to leave in, and what to leave out? What if you don’t know how to find the “clues” you’ve left yourself on the page? Which details matter, which flashbacks can be cut, and where will fewer words have a greater impact than extraneous words?

By studying writers such as Raymond Carver, Joseph Bathanti, Mary Clearman Blew, Bill Roorbach, and Rebecca McClanahan, and by working through the Integrative Assignment and craft lecture I provided, we are starting to answer these questions and make real changes to our drafts. We’re even experimenting with imitation! And even writers generating new, first drafts, can benefit from considering structure and the precise selection of their content. Which details will drive a plot? Which details will deflate it? How can the germinating idea for a piece of writing give us a clue about what needs to happen next?

Paired with the prompts I’ve been providing for existing drafts or generating new writing, plus our livestream group conversations during Office Hours and Master Class, this month of study together is already making a real difference. 

Curious about how to become your own best editor and writing coach? Intrigued by some of what I’ve said here? (For instance, do you know the difference between backstory and flashback? Or how structure and plot are interrelated?) Email me and ask a question about this post, or tell me about your own struggles. Let’s keep the conversation going.

If you’re ready for the deeper dive, explore what Monthly Mentorship is all about right here, then fill out the questionnaire and I’ll reach out for a free video or phone consult to discuss your goals, needs, and the best path toward becoming your own best editor, for life.

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