Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sweeping Out the Back Story

We started cleaning the basement last week, my hubby and I. Not a job I relish, but something that has been needed for a long time. We only made a dent. There's still lots to do. But at least we got started.

Have you ever noticed how much history is in a basement? For us it includes a myriad of canning jars and bunches of old glasses, including a set of Garfield cups our kids drank out of when little. There's the dented metal popcorn popper that I used in college oh, so many years ago--given to me by an aunt who had used it for years herself. Then there's my grandmother's rusty old mixer, a couple of frisbees and softballs, a hurricane lamp without a globe, and a bunch of pathetic baskets tossed in a corner.

Some stuff, as happens in any good sweep, will be thrown out. Some will be given away. And some, because we can't yet part with it, will find a new shelf on which to sit. And, hopefully, when all is said and done, the space will be in much better shape at the end of the process than when we first began.

Sweeping out the backstory in my manuscript is turning out to follow a similar pattern. I know it needs done. Boy, do I ever. Recently all kinds of red flags have been raised as I review some of the chapters. I also know that by addressing the problem, my work will be better in the end. But, man, what to keep? What to toss? What is necessary? What is clutter? What helps the story? What would cause my middle-grade reader to get bogged down and, with that, put the book down?

I'm grateful for the posts of others that have recently inspired me in this part of my book-writing journey, including here at Suite101 and at Wordplay.

For example, Camy Tang at Suite101 says, "The key to presenting backstory in a way that is interesting to a reader boils down to one piece of advice: Make the reader want to know the information."

So what information does my reader want? What stuff in my basement do I want? Hmmm, these are things to think about.

And so my sweep continues.

Just out of curiosity, what kinds of things are you in the process of sweeping out, writing or otherwise?


  1. I think I need to start sweeping away at the cobwebs on some of my early memories. With 4 young kids, I often feel like I forget the gems that are sitting away in the "basement" of my mind. I know that there must be some good material waiting for me in my memory. Great post for reflection today. Thank you!

  2. Thanks back to you, Kelly. And somewhere along the way, you'll jog those early memories--they're just waiting to be rediscovered!

    Thanks for stopping in...

  3. Our garage. What a difference when got rid of all the junk. It actually can be a nice room now. :)