Monday, May 24, 2010

When blurting bites

As a little girl, my mom used to warn me about saying too much. I know I embarrassed her on several occasions. Not on purpose, mind you. I believe that honesty is innate and lying is learned. I may be wrong, but think about how children don't hold back information. Whatever's on their mind flows readily from their mouth. When you have a child in tow, the grocery store clerk (and everyone in line) knows that you colored your gray hair that morning, the postman hears about how you don't want your morning donut getting stuck on your buns, try not to think about what their teacher learns.

When I got older, my mom explained that if you divulge too much personal information, people can lose interest in you. Hold back and keep them intrigued. Let them earn your trust before opening up too much. These are fundamental rules of dating and making friends. Rules that, if followed, would solve a few facebook issues. It's not about being dishonest. It's about thinking before you blurt. Little did she know that she was teaching me a ground rule for story telling. No backstory dump. Let the hero and heroine (and reader) get to know each other like they would in real life...a little bit at a time.

My first manuscript began with backstory. I was essentially a child when it came to writing a novel. A novice anxious to pour everything in my head onto paper. I cringe when I think back to my first contest submission. Three chapters of backstory. Ouch. But I learned my lesson (and there's always more to learn). I read craft books, novels in my genre, and I attended as many workshops as I could at my first RWA meeting in D.C. One enormous, painful rewrite of my first manuscript, and I was determined never to make that mistake again. I'm glad I did though.

I think that if I'd immersed myself in learning the craft before ever getting my first story out of my head, my creativity would have been stifled. The fear of doing it all wrong would have taken over. All those mind-boggling writing rules would have triggered self-doubt. I'd have suffered from the 'teacher looking over your shoulder' syndrome and I would never have gotten my first 60,000 words down. It wasn't until I read Stephen King's On Writing, that I understood this. He gave me 'permission' to write without stopping to edit. The King had given me permission to blurt!

Yes, Mom. I can blurt...but like you said, in private. Only on that first draft. After that, I'll edit what I say.


  1. What an awesome first post! Congratulations on the blog, my friend. It's amazing, just like you. You make such a great point about holding off on the craft side of things. I agree that you kind of need to just let it go at first. It's part of the learning experience I think you need to fling yourself through. Me? I think I'll just fly by the seat of my pants for just a little bit longer :).

  2. Thanks, Kaily. I'm so glad you liked it. As for flying by the seat of your pants...with your first novella's release date coming up June 29th, I'd say you're soaring! WTG!

  3. Oh, the backstory dump - been there, trying not to do it again. The whole adage of start with action then move into the heart is a hard one for me to adhere to, but I'm trying. Good luck with your writing and looking forward to hearing more about your journey :)

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Hetal. I think that many of us have a twisted, love-hate relationship with backstory, LOL! I'll be popping by your blog soon :)