Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

A disturbing trend has begun in the world of fiction. I have to admit that I do not read much secular work, so the novels in which I have noted this newest technique have all been in CBA.

Back story is something every writer hears about. We’re told not to drop it into the story in large chunks. We are taught to layer it into the story, use it to provide twists and turns to a great novel, and never, ever do we dare to slam our stories to a halt to jettison the poor reader back to the past.

I have spent years learning to craft back story that does not stop the forward motion of my novel. I work at layering in the details to surprise the reader. I do everything possible to keep from pouring a bunch of back story information onto the reader. I encourage all authors that I work with or teach to do the same. That’s why this new trend is so disturbing to me.

What is it that has me so bothered?

In several recent novels, I have come across large chunks of italicized text. Sometimes the entire chapter is italicized. It took only a second to realize what was happening. The author was being lazy, the editor was allowing such laziness, and the publisher, despite all of the advice to the contrary, went back on years of teaching and allowed the stories to come to an abrupt start and a drastic jump to the past. This new technique adds nothing to an author’s work, but it takes much away from the story.

In all instances, I refused to read the italicized text. I cringe at the over use of internal monologue, and I shuddered at pages and pages of italicized back story, as if the italics made the back story important enough to the story that it could be dumped upon the reader.
It did not. When I reached the end of each of the novels where this technique was employed, I found that I did not miss one bit of the back story.

That in and of itself is very telling to me.

I encourage authors to learn the art of back story. Edit your novels to incorporate what has been learned. Yes, back story is necessary, but the way it is presented can make a vast difference in the way the story is shown.

Happy editing.


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