Big Mistake. HUGE!

I have been beavering away on my manuscript for a while now, about 30,000 whiles actually, and was quite happy with the way it was going. I had my outline plotted, I knew everything about all my characters, their settings, and was even accommodating those surprise characters that appear and demand to be included. And then I read a ‘Kicking The Pants’ blog post by Dave Borcherding entitled The Epiphany That Nearly Made Me Trash My Novel – and all that changed.

In the post, Dave describes the realisation that half of his manuscript was backstory and needed to be removed. Then it hit me that this is exactly what the majority of my book is – backstory. *Cue: massive, gut-wrenching sinking feeling*

After the initial panic, I decided to take a step back and evaluate what this actually meant. I didn’t know at this point whether I was right and if I was, how much it would affect the work already done. What I have realised is that I’ve started the story too early. I have written the story from the beginning in chronological order when I should have started it closer to the start of the action. This means that most of the first quarter of the book can be removed and fed in later on. Balls.

Of course, I am now pretty annoyed with myself since I’ve spent many hours and months reading anything I can get my hands on about the craft of writing and I have definitely read about this rookie mistake many times, yet I still made it. What is a writer’s life if not one of continual learning and improvement?

So now I have a mission ahead of me, I need to re-plot the novel and decide where all the deleted backstory will be included. Now that I’ve got over the initial horror of discovering this structure problem I can put it right and I’m actually quite excited about that. I’m certain the story will be much better for it and thankfully, it means I can strengthen the dreaded mid-section with previously unrevealed traumatic events.

Right, better get cracking then, but before I do, just a quick thank you to Dave Borcherding for ruining my week and then helping me to realise that all is not lost – I can make everything better!


About Nicola Auckland

Busy wife to one & mum to two. I've caught the creative writing bug, now need to practice, get awesome and write something worth reading. Simples.
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13 Responses to Big Mistake. HUGE!

  1. Pingback: Time to Write? | Musings from a Novice Writer

  2. jbgarner58 says:

    You should be proud. It’s not only a common mistake but it is one I am sure all of us writers have made multiple times. You caught it and want to fix it. That is the vital thing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wellcraftedtoo says:

    Don’t minimize this perennial challenge for writers by labeling it a ‘rookie mistake’; this is an ongoing issue for all writers of fiction, one that raises a host of good questions.

    What do we mean when we say that certain material in a narrative is “backstory”, and what, if anything, should we do with it? A place to start with this issue might be to take a close look at some of your favorite authors, and find how they handle “backstory” material. There are many ways to bring in detail about characters–their pasts, their lives, their histories. And, yea for us hard-working writers, they can all work if done well!

    Good luck!


    • Thanks, I’ve been watching backstory unfold in novels recently and love the way clever authors feed it in so you are not really conscious of it or it takes you by surprise. I don’t like it when characters drift into a hazy memory, it just seems lazy.

      I’m loving replotting the outline, it’s like a whole new but familiar tale. I’ve learnt a lesson about rushing through my planning stage though!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Marcus Case says:

    I guess we’ve all been there. A (very helpful) editor once suggested to me that I should pick up a strand when the conflict is beginning to spike, and then layer in the backstory. I’ve never looked back (sorry). Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to ruin your week! 🙂 I hope your novel comes out stronger. I think mine will. My suspicion is that most of the backstory I cut out will find it’s way back in, and will likely bring more story with it. Sounds like this is your plan, too. Good luck!


  6. pj says:

    I did the same thing – writing in chronological order a story based on a true story – 6 years in the traumatic life of two little girls. It’s a middle grade book and I started when they were ages 7 & 8. It was (kindly) pointed out that middle grade wants to read about someone their own age so I had to rearrange my story starting almost at the end and bringing in the rest via flashbacks. Not an easy task. Hang in there. I’m still working on mine!


  7. Alyssa Auch says:

    Oh man, that definitely sucks! But props to you for not only realizing that you had not started in the right place, but having the gumption to overhaul it and make it right. Do it right the first time! That’s what my Dad always said. I’m Alyssa by the way. 🙂 I look forward to hearing more about your journey!



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