How to Weave Backstory Into Your Novel Seamlessly

Behind every well-developed novel lies an important backstory—but including too much of it too soon can halt your story’s momentum. Here’s how to know what to reveal and when.

by Karen Dionne (originally appeared in Writers Digest, January 2013)

One of the most common mistakes I note when I’m called upon to offer comments on aspiring authors’ manuscripts is that the author has included too much backstory in the opening pages. Sometimes, the novel plods along page after page as the author diligently works to set up the story, and I have to force myself to keep reading. Other times, the novel gets off to a terrific start, but just as the author has carried me breathlessly through that first tension-filled chapter and I start thinking, This author can really write, the second chapter falls into storytelling mode—and I don’t mean storytelling in a good way!

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