How much detail and backstory?

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NOTE: I dusted off some notes I took for a webinar, How to Revise Your NaNo Novel, from January 2016. Grant Faulkner hosted the segment on writing advice with guest speakers KM Weiland, James Scott Bell and Kami Garcia. The following were some of the questions asked.

How do you balance detail? Too much, too little?

  • James Scott Bell:
    • Look for the telling detail, the one image that illuminates what’s going on inside the character’s mind. Stop and think about what the character sees, feels, and notices. Also, overwrite the section of description and then  find a one or two details that work, then throw the rest away.
  • KM Weiland
    • Use subtext in dialogue and action.

How much backstory should I include?

  • James Scott Bell:
    • Sparingly at first. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are great at layering it in. In the first ten pages, use only three sentences of backstory. For the next ten pages, use only three paragraphs of backstory. Act first, explain later.

Other notes from How to Revise Your NaNo Novel:


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