Sunday, May 4, 2014


I've linked a new Cornell DeVille YouTube video to this post because I wanted my readers to understand the concept of backstory and how it relates to starting your manuscript out on the best foot. It doesn't matter whether you're writing a middle grade adventure, a young adult romance, or even a picture book. The key point to remember is simply this: you need to capture the attention of your reader as early as possible. Let me repeat that because it's vitally important.


Most new writers love to write. In fact, they love to write everything they can think of in order to inform the reader about every fact and aspect of the story, the setting, the characters, the situation, etc. They will write until the cows come home before they get to the point. And that's sometimes the cause of the reader closing the book and looking for something else that doesn't drone on and on while it meanders slowly in its circuitous route toward something more interesting.

Obviously, backstory is important to your story. However, it's not the most important aspect. Grabbing the reader's attention is the critical issue to consider when you start writing. If you can do that with a narrative hook in the first few paragraphs, you can lock your reader in for another 50 or 75 pages. Provide them with a situation that places a question in their mind, and they'll keep reading until they discover the answer. That gives you, as the writer of this epic, some breathing room that you can use to weave your back story in so the reader can become intimately familiar with your characters while you let the plot play out.

I hope you will take the seven minutes required to view the video below. Then take another seven minutes and read the first few pages of your WIP. After you've done that, answer this question: Does the beginning of your WIP capture your attention? If not, maybe you need to do a little housekeeping and rearranging. Get the interesting bits up front so your reader can discover them early on.

Good luck. For some additional insight on openings, check this ARTICLE.

For a video version of this topic, visit my YouTube channel HERE.

I hope you'll leave me a comment. Keep writing. Someone has to do it.


  1. Recently I've been reading some books which are about 5-8 years old from very experienced and popular suspense writers. Because they are writing series, they seem to want to tell you everything in big gulps so as not to leave you behind if you're a one-off reader. I was thinking how much things have changed over the past few years. Jump in where the changes take place etc...And obviously I've become used to beginnings like this since I've picked apart in my head these writers' info dumps. Interesting how things change. Imagine telling C.S. Forrester he does info dumps!

  2. Vonnie - I agree. Things change. When I remember how much I struggled to get interested in Moby Dick, it just seems like such a waste of time and effort to write that way. But it's still a classic, so I guess there's something to be said for that style. Thanks for your comment. It's good to know someone is out there watching and reading this stuff.


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