For the Love of BackStory!

Writing.Advice.

Fiction has changed a lot, and really, not necessarily for the better.

My fiancée used to teach high school English, so she stayed current on YA fiction. She has a particular love for YA dystopian fiction, but she even read YA fiction she didn’t like to stay on top of what her students were reading.

Like me, she has loved to read her all her life. But I have given up on most contemporary fiction because I think most of it has gone down the toilet. She agrees, and insists that most of the great writing right now is happening in YA.

If I had to guess, I bet one of the reasons why is YA doesn’t cut out backstory.

I read voraciously when I was a kid. Growing up, I read mostly commercial junk and did not become actively interested in the classics until I was in college.

But one thing most of my favorites novels had in common was that the backstory was a crucial part of developing the core plot. Novels were often hundreds of pages long, and far longer than the 100,000-120,000 word limit of what is now considered an epic.

What made up all those pages and words? Backstory. The backstory of each of the characters before they came to be a part of the main plot line was anything but shortchanged, usually described in great detail.

these were incredible stories and I loved falling into those worlds.

The biggest mistake I made with my first novel of the Ella Bandita stories (Ella Bandita and the Wanderer) was cutting out so much backstory. The reason why? Because I was trying to get traditionally published, and all the agents and editors insisted on a word count between 70,000 and 110,000 words.

Sometime after the 80’s, novels became shorter; backstory was only a succinct mention, and in many cases all but disappeared. If the story is one that takes place in a short frame of time, that would work fine most of the time. But how can anybody have the space to disappear into another world when that universe is so constricted?

It didn’t work for me.

The criticism pointed out the most often in my reviews is due to the lack of backstory. The critical readers expressed an inability to connect or understand the main character.

For a long time, I’ve known I need go back and rewrite it, add that backstory. But I simply couldn’t do it. I wrote and rewrote and cut out large chunks of that first novel so many times, the thought of working on it anymore made me weary.

There comes a time when you have to move on to the next book, so I did. Lesson learned, but ouch, that hurt.

Then it occurred to me that I could add to it.

Since Ella Bandita and the Wanderer was written as novella segments, I could take those 75 pages that had been cut, mainly written from the The Horse Trainer’s point-of-view, and put them before Birthing Ella Bandita.

I could also write a novella in the 1st person from her mother’s point-of-view, in the final days of her pregnancy, knowing that childbirth was going to kill her. That could be at the beginning. The main character would still be at the start of the story, even if she’s in utero.

Of course, this changes the entire tone of the novel, and the name needs to change. I think the name of the final novella of the novel as it is right now would work beautifully - The Heart of the Lone Wolf.

It makes sense, really. All the important characters in this novel are alone.

Right now I’m working on the 2nd draft of the 2nd novel in the Ella Bandita stories. When I finish, I’ll take a break from it and go back to the 1st novel and make those additions. It shouldn’t take too long and it will make a nice break from this draft.

As far as the 2nd novel work-in-progress is concerned, my working titles are: The Shepherd and the Courtesan, or The Art of Taking Chances.

Oh and the Courtesan has a juicy backstory. Even if the transformation of an ugly peasant girl named Addie into the legendary Adrianna the Beautiful has nothing to little to do with the main plot, I’m writing it and it’s staying.

Why? Because it’s good. Even if it makes the novel more expensive to print, it’s going in. Besides that’s the beauty of ebooks.

Maybe the glorious backstory can find its way back in to the pages of novels, now that printing may not be such an expense.

Do You Want to Be a Writer? Then Give Yourself Something to Write About!

Hey y’all,  Do you want to be a writer? Then give yourself something to write about.  I made a very nice, proper, young girl very uncomfortable with this piece of advice when she asked me about how I became a writer.  Until I said that, she looked at me with hero worship in her eyes when I told her about my year on the road, selling a book out of an old Four-Runner I called the Beast. Once I told her to get out and do some living if she wanted to find her best stories, she averted her eyes and looked down in the posture of shame.  I’m sad to say that there is no writing class that will give anybody the silver bullet. Mastering the mechanics of the art and craft of writing is valuable, but the real juice of inspiration is sucked from experience.  My best stories come from my life – especially vivid happenings that catapulted me out of my comfort zone, brought me to states of ecstasy and/or agony - anything that made me feel alive. There I found the richest fodder for stories, or even pieces of stories.  For example, there’s a really luscious scene in  Challenge  that I am especially proud of.  Challenge  is the third book in  Ella Bandita and the Wanderer . The illustration above is the setting for that scene.  As you can see, the illustration is a very sensuous image of a beautiful, naked couple soaking in a shallow pool; the Wanderer is combing Ella Bandita’s hair, while she leans into him and lets her fingers dangle in the water. The backdrop is not only a forest, but the type of old growth woods in the temperate rainforest found in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska; the pool they are soaking in is a hot spring.  How’s that for a luscious setting?  Have I had a sexy interlude in a sexy hot spring that I’m disguising as fiction? Maybe I have and maybe I haven’t. But my points are I have the experience of living in Oregon. I lived in Alaska for 11 years where I went hiking all the time.  AND I LOVE HOT SPRINGS! I especially love hot springs that are found in the woods of a temperate rainforest, and I have the gorgeous experience of finding my bliss in fabulous places such as these. So…what better setting could there possibly be for a scene that builds sexual tension between these antagonistic characters?  That’s only the beginning. Other examples are the On the Road posts that I put up from time to time. Being on the road with a Beast full of books, telling stories and selling them out of my truck was wwwaaayyy out of my comfort zone. There were so many incredible stories that came out of that.  So, a few weeks ago, I gave my blog an official name, and therefore a theme and purpose, which should help on my author’s platform.  This was a necessary step to moving away from the theme started by my former Operations Manager, Jessica Cox. She did a lovely job of building a blog with writing prompts and writing how-to’s, but that blog did not reflect me, my writing, or my tastes.  Writing advice is well and good, and valuable information that people want and need. I will continue to write blogs offering this, as well as writing prompts. But I will add from my experience and perspective, and hopefully, that will fill in the missing pieces.  Knowing the tricks of the trade to execute good writing pieces is essential, but the experience to inspire those tales is priceless. The mechanics will take care of themselves in due time.  I hope this blog more thoroughly reflects my perspective on the journey of being a writer. Apologies on the month long hiatus. I was rather occupied with the experience of an ayahuasca journey. I’m sure eventually that will find its way into my writing.  So go have an adventure and give yourself something to write about. Happy trails!  Peace,  Montgomery  PS: If you’d like to download  Challenge , to read that succulent scene for yourself, you’ll find it  here!

Hey y’all,

Do you want to be a writer? Then give yourself something to write about.

I made a very nice, proper, young girl very uncomfortable with this piece of advice when she asked me about how I became a writer.

Until I said that, she looked at me with hero worship in her eyes when I told her about my year on the road, selling a book out of an old Four-Runner I called the Beast. Once I told her to get out and do some living if she wanted to find her best stories, she averted her eyes and looked down in the posture of shame.

I’m sad to say that there is no writing class that will give anybody the silver bullet. Mastering the mechanics of the art and craft of writing is valuable, but the real juice of inspiration is sucked from experience.

My best stories come from my life – especially vivid happenings that catapulted me out of my comfort zone, brought me to states of ecstasy and/or agony - anything that made me feel alive. There I found the richest fodder for stories, or even pieces of stories.

For example, there’s a really luscious scene in Challenge that I am especially proud of. Challenge is the third book in Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. The illustration above is the setting for that scene.

As you can see, the illustration is a very sensuous image of a beautiful, naked couple soaking in a shallow pool; the Wanderer is combing Ella Bandita’s hair, while she leans into him and lets her fingers dangle in the water. The backdrop is not only a forest, but the type of old growth woods in the temperate rainforest found in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska; the pool they are soaking in is a hot spring.

How’s that for a luscious setting?

Have I had a sexy interlude in a sexy hot spring that I’m disguising as fiction? Maybe I have and maybe I haven’t. But my points are I have the experience of living in Oregon. I lived in Alaska for 11 years where I went hiking all the time.

AND I LOVE HOT SPRINGS! I especially love hot springs that are found in the woods of a temperate rainforest, and I have the gorgeous experience of finding my bliss in fabulous places such as these. So…what better setting could there possibly be for a scene that builds sexual tension between these antagonistic characters?

That’s only the beginning. Other examples are the On the Road posts that I put up from time to time. Being on the road with a Beast full of books, telling stories and selling them out of my truck was wwwaaayyy out of my comfort zone. There were so many incredible stories that came out of that.

So, a few weeks ago, I gave my blog an official name, and therefore a theme and purpose, which should help on my author’s platform.

This was a necessary step to moving away from the theme started by my former Operations Manager, Jessica Cox. She did a lovely job of building a blog with writing prompts and writing how-to’s, but that blog did not reflect me, my writing, or my tastes.

Writing advice is well and good, and valuable information that people want and need. I will continue to write blogs offering this, as well as writing prompts. But I will add from my experience and perspective, and hopefully, that will fill in the missing pieces.

Knowing the tricks of the trade to execute good writing pieces is essential, but the experience to inspire those tales is priceless. The mechanics will take care of themselves in due time.

I hope this blog more thoroughly reflects my perspective on the journey of being a writer. Apologies on the month long hiatus. I was rather occupied with the experience of an ayahuasca journey. I’m sure eventually that will find its way into my writing.

So go have an adventure and give yourself something to write about. Happy trails!

Peace,

Montgomery

PS: If you’d like to download Challenge, to read that succulent scene for yourself, you’ll find it here!

Original Writing Prompts for Fantasy and Writing Inspiration for Journaling...or even Memoir!

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Hey y'all,

Cole has busted out some pretty fabulous memes in the form of writing prompts and inspiration! Their style is different from mine, but that makes for broader perspective and more choices for all the writers out there to find those pearls of inspiration to get those creative ideas flowing and the pen moving across the page or fingers dancing over a keyboard. Things tend to flow from there. So enjoy!

On another note, this weekend, I'm heading for my first festival as a vendor for the first time in a coon's age. Imagine Orcas Island, with sacred music, late night dance parties, aerialists, fire dancers, nature, beauty, and lots of rain - that's where I'll be with Cole and my partner, Morgen, trying to tell some stories and sell some books. I have an updated and revised version of The Golden Pedestal for the kiddos with some gorgeous new illustrations, as well as Ella Bandita and the Wanderer for the adults. I'll also have some older copies of my original collection of stories, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer, which will go for a $4. A lot has changed in the self-publishing world since the DIY booktour odyssey I did in 2005/2006. One positive change on my end is that I'm not doing this alone. That is a huge relief!

I hope it's a good weekend, and if anybody reading this happens to be on Orcas Island for Imagine this weekend, come find us. In the meantime, enjoy Cole's writing prompts and inspiration!

Peace,
Montgomery

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