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Hello Mr. Wales,
I am starting to write a book on my life story. Everyone has a book in them and I am no exception. My book is about some tough issues. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. I had a ferocious addiction problem for many years. I was raised on a cotton and tobacco farm here in North Carolina and started off on a "Walton" way of life. In a nutshell my life consisted of the inventing of MDA (Ecstacy today), drug smuggling, marijuana farming, moonshining, the Iran-Contra scandal (Yes I was Involved), death, jails, psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers,AA meetings, and the list goes on. I finally had a powerful and very real spiritual experience that saved my life. I ended up working in the prison system as an alcohol and drug counselor and I have done so for 12 years. I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and have a family that actually was drug through this hell and stuck by me.
I am writing this book for me and others.
My question is on plot and story line. I am going to write in the first person. And I already know the flow I want to use. But in a story "based on a true story" are there things I need to consider? I am also not going to open up worms on things better left alone (Oliver North and my uncle are still best friends). I wanted to know about time sequence and things of that nature. I want to start in a very intense situation near the end of my addiction, look back to the beginning, and move forward to the same point. Then I would move on the ending and the tranformation. I have been told by some folks that have a opinion that I value that it is a very good line. This of course is a compact version that is only fact and no emotion.
 
I would love your feedback.
Thank you!
Don Stone

Answer
Don:

That type of sequence - beginning "now" and going back to "then" - is a very common one in storytelling, and it definitely has its uses.  And from what you've told me, I do agree that this could work very well for your kind of story.  Essentially, your opening scenes (the "now" section) would act as a sort of prologue.  They will immediately suck in the reader, and that's a good thing.

But there is a danger to this tool, too, and that is the fact that when you begin with that sort of "prologue" type beginning, you essentially have TWO beginnings.  Because as soon as you begin your flashback, you've now started the story over again.  And don't doubt for a minute that this second "beginning" also needs to hook the reader, the same as the "now" section did.  What I'm saying is that by doing it this way, you also give yourself two different spots where you can drop the ball, so to speak, and lose your reader.

Still, I do think it's a good way to do a story of this nature, despite that risk.

One other thing I'd recommend:  Always keep in mind who your audience is.  Because that will affect the focus of what you're writing.  In other words, if you're writing it primarily for those who are in need of the sort of spiritual "wake up call" that you received, you'd write it very differently than if you were writing it for those who are more interested in the "behind the scenes of the drug trade" sort of thing.

Whatever your goal is, best of luck with it.  Definitely tremendous potential there!

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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