Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Manuscript Fix: Can this chapter be saved?

One of my critique partners (also an editor for a different epublisher) pointed out that--in her opinion--the entire first chapter of my current w.i.p. is backstory. (If you heard a primal scream earlier this morning, that was me. Sorry.)

Ah, backstory. Sometimes it sits there out in the open, being itself: a bunch of information setting the stage, introducing the characters and maybe even explaining why they're there and what they're doing. Sometimes it gives you the main character's history.

Sometimes, backstory's disguised as a prologue.

This is a frequent problem with manuscripts I see; the story could easily begin (with more impact) on page ten, but the author has decided this other stuff is just as important and needs to be said. The thing is, the reader wants to be dropped into the middle of the action; poorly written backstory could make them close the book (or click off the sample chapter).

This is A Very Bad Thing.

I'm not sure what this bit o'backstory is doing. Not much, apparently, because as Joyce said, "I'm just waiting for something to happen." The thing is--in my opinion--things are happening. Just...not much. I think it's being sneaky--pretending to have something going on...or...not? I'm too on-top of it to tell. So I thought I'd ask you.

If you look at the tab labelled Love You to Death (which should be above, if I formatted things correctly), you can read my opening chapter. What do you think? Backstory? Not backstory? Tell me why--or why not? Would you read on or close the book?


  1. To be honest, it did seem heavy on the backstory to me. It wouldn't stop me reading, because I like a bit of history early on, but I can see how it may irritate some readers. :)


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  3. If the next chapter continues on without a timeline jump, I wouldn't call it backstory. Just a bit of an info dump.

    I think you just have too many blocks of inner thoughts all mushed together.

    But I'm curious to read more. Bravo on that! :D

  4. Shame on Joyce! It's not all backstory. You're setting up with your wonderful voice. I agree, readers today expect to be thrown into the action right away, but your humor and wit keeps the reader smiling, which is a great thing. And it's not boring at all! I would read on for sure just to see what tricks Cecilia has up her sleeve.

  5. Seems to me that it DOES jump right into the action, if the story is about the two of them getting together. Especially if she is tired for the teleconference because of that particular late night visit. I definitely would keep reading.

  6. I can never put your writing down. I think you're clever when it comes to backstory. I'm never bothered to read it.

    The key is knowing when to say stop! And you do. You give enough to bring the reader in and then charm us with your humor and excellent flow to keep us going.


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