Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I’m going to a writing conference this Saturday.  And since I’m signed up to go to a workshop, I got a packet of novel excerpts to read in preparation.  I was pretty excited at the quality of most of the writing. Yay!  But the thing I was most excited to see was rewritten version of a novel that I’d read in the workshop last year.

Last year’s version wasn’t bad.  But like a lot of newbie novels (mine included), it started out with backstory.  Why do we do this so often?  I mean, we all know that you don’t begin with backstory.  I think I’ve done it because I’m not as confident in my writing and my characters as I need to be.  And I think it’s because a lot of times when I start a novel, I really don’t know the characters yet—what I start off writing is more to educate me than anyone else.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  You have to start somewhere.  But you can’t stop there or your readers will yawn and move on to another book. 

Instead in this new version of the book, the author began where the story started—when something happens, when the main character gets kicked in the stomach by the plot.  As a reader, I get to see who the MC is through her actions and decisions.  As well as by what she doesn’t do or say.

What about the backstory?  It was important information.  But this time, the author dropped bits and pieces of the backstory into the chapters like chocolate chips in Tollhouse cookies.  We found out what we needed to know, but only when we needed to know it, and it left me hungry for more.  Isn’t that what every writer wants?  I know that I do.

I can’t wait to see the author and tell her how excited I am about this version of her novel.

Update: Our friend Duncan had brain surgery this morning.  The neurosurgeon said that it went very well.  We’re all very thankful.  And thanks for the prayers.


  1. I hope Duncan continues to do well!
    And whew, I was so relieved to see the writer fixed a major issue. I'd be stressed out reading this if you had to tell her she's still hasn't improved after a year!

  2. Wow! Glad the surgery went well!

    Good post...yeah backstories should be handled with care. I see those in so many openings for teen novels. Its really boring. You want to get to the plot already!

  3. Great new about Duncan & I also hope he continues to do well. Have fun at the conference and meeting the authors.

  4. Great post on the importance of rewrites. You had me at "chocolate chips"--a really good simile :-). Actually before, but that clenched it.