How The Tough Mudder Is Helping Me Write a New Story

In the break between Pitch Wars submission and mentee announcements, I have been happy to do two things:

  1. Read more (see the September reading list to join in!)
  2. Write a new story!

This new story, which has no title, no named protagonist, and only a skeleton of a plot, turned out to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling totally on accident.

Okay, Beauty and the Beast with hex magic, in a sci-fi world with a genderfluid shapeshifter and a bipolar witch.

For the first few days of brainstorming, I was on fire. Ideas for the new magic system, new world, twists and turns and pivotal scenes, all of it came at my so easily. It felt amazing and right.

And then I hit the brick wall.

My brain came up with a maelstrom of ideas resembling puzzle pieces and the wall popped up when I needed to start fitting them together. This will be the first novel-sized story I’ve done since INNATE, which I only really outlined properly AFTER I’d written the mess of a first draft.

So I’m looking at this wall and thinking two things: First, how do I write a story from scratch? and Second, maybe this is like the Tough Mudder?

The Tough Mudder is an obstacle course race that I ran with some friends in 2012. Our course was 12.5 miles long with 28 obstacles. I tore some tendons in my ankle on the 4th or 5th obstacle. When asked if I wanted to quit, all of my training flashed before my eyes and I knew I couldn’t give up, even if my team had to move on without me.

They didn’t. They stuck with me and the freezing-cold water in my soaked socks and shoes acted like an ice pack and dulled any swelling (and even numbed the pain!) that would have really taken me out of the course.

My team is awesome.

I thought of Tough Mudder because, in the course, several obstacles are walls.

alt="Jessica scaling a 10 foot wall as a friend lifts her up"
And I need help climbing them.

They become increasingly higher throughout the race starting at 8ft and ending at 12ft. I found that, the more pieces of my new story I had to put together, the harder it was to scale the wall.

Starting to see the metaphor, yet?

Just as I had an amazing team to help me in that race, so do I have amazing people and tools to help with this new story. I use K.M. Weiland’s Scrivener outline template to write everything down and empty my brain to make space for new ideas. I have a few critique partners who are excellent at connecting threads and asking, “What if?” and “Why not?”

What I have learned from Pitch Wars is that it’s vital (at least to my writing) to have a community that can provide support (usually via gif), feedback, and new perspectives. Some people can scale the wall alone, but, just as Tough Mudder is all about teamwork and camaraderie, what’s the fun in doing it by yourself?

There will be more obstacles with this new story and with revising INNATE in the months to come, but, with my team and support on my side, I’m ready to jump right in!

alt="Jessica jumping into a tub of ice"
Thank goodness the new story isn’t a huge tub of ice, am I right???

Author: V. Kane

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @ValkyrieWriting or Instagram at books_and_dogs

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