Backstory and Flashback: Monthly Mentorship with Katey Schultz
Hi, I’m Katey Schultz and in my Monthly Mentorship program, 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.
What to Leave In, What to Leave Out
This month in Monthly Mentorship, we’re talking about structure. Structure is the actual building block 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. The novelists in my program have clarity around their secondary characters, and what details to select based on the impact the novel needs at a certain juncture. Essayists in my program are considering their connective threads, and how they can be less subtle about stakes. Short story writers are looking at obstacles and making sure their characters have them, and that they appear using the most effective structural component of prose for their piece.
Become your own best editor
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. The program for 2022-23 is already filling, and applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.