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3 Ways to Save Your Backstory from the Cutting Room Floor

BY SHENNANDOAH DIAZ

Backstory is crucial to the novel writing process. It gives your character substance and drive while adding depth, history and realism to your fiction. It takes a great deal of hard work to develop your character's backstory. Unfortunately for the sake of the novel, much of that hard work ends up on the cutting room floor.

That doesn't mean all that hard work has gone to waste. There are many ways for you to repurpose those backstories into moneymaking and author platform building opportunities.

shannandoah diaz

Shennandoah Diaz is a writer and freelance Branding and Communications expert based out of Austin, Texas. Diaz works with independent publishers, small businesses, experts, and authors to build killer brands and engaging content. Passionate about education, Diaz teaches workshops for the Writer’s League of Texas and other professional organizations that empower writers to take charge of their brand and their writing career. Learn more by visiting shennandoahdiaz.com or follow her on Twitter (@shennandoahdiaz). 

1. Short Stories for Submission

Often our character backstory is centered on a core event that changes the character's life in a big way. That dramatic event is a great point of focus for a short story. Short stories can range from flash fiction as short as six words to works as long as 5,000–20,000 words. There are dozens of contests and outlets, both paying and non-paying, that publish short stories on a continual basis. Some outlets that post these opportunities include Duotrope, local writing groups, area universities, and of course there are several competitions throughout the year hosted by Writer's Digest. Duotrope also allows you to create an account to track submissions so you know what you sent, where, and when.

Each published piece is more than just a feather in your cap. It helps you prove your characters' appeal and story premise in a paying market, demonstrates that you are a writer who can deliver, and helps you start getting paid for the work you're already doing.

2. Website Freebies

It is crucial for an author to invest in building his or her platform on an ongoing basis. Digital media requires regular content to attract attention and followers. Backstories packaged as short stories, blog posts and vignettes make great content for author websites and fans. You can wait until after you've tried publishing through a paying outlet, or go ahead and offer it as a free download on your website as a way to attract readers and thank your existing fans.

Just remember to edit carefully, and if possible, get a second pair of eyes on your work before you post it for the world to see. There are many freelance editors available who can provide a professional critique of your work for a nominal fee. The expense is worth it when it comes to your website and author platform development. You want to make sure you're always putting your best foot forward, and don't want to get caught posting a story that doesn't flow or that contains improper grammar.

The nonfiction research you did for your story is also great to share. The nonfiction or "truth" side to every story is a major contributor to creating interest for your book. Did you research vintage balloons for your story? Write a blog post about it. Did you visit an old ghost town for the setting of your novel? Share the pictures you took. Maps, historical information, how-tos, diagrams and other informative pieces bring life and context to your work. Most of all, they draw in readers. Share your research as blog posts, downloads, and images. You'll be surprised how many people you reach that might not have connected with you otherwise.

3. Multimedia

Stories are told through many media, not just the written word. Video, music, photography, and other art forms are also great ways to convey and share your character's backstory. Pair up with a local aspiring film director to turn your backstory into a screenplay for a short filmt, or take a cue from Scott Sigler and post the screenplay as a competition for your followers. You can even take it a step further and use your backstories for a series of podcasts to drum up interest in your work.

If you have a pile of nonfiction research on a historic place, profession, or some other aspect of your story, you can turn those into interesting how-to videos and informative podcasts. Many fiction authors have become subject matter experts on things like espionage and dead presidents by employing practices such as these. There are several inexpensive tools available.

Camtasia is great for doing professional looking videos that capture images and presentations on your computer screen. The interface is very simple and easy to use, and there are dozens of tutorials available to get you started. Animoto is great for making mini-videos using photos and stock clips, and requires little to no technical expertise. Their existing storehouse of images and music make it easy to create and share book trailers and mini informative videos in a matter of minutes.

Podcasts have become increasingly popular due to iTunes and online media such as BlogTalk Radio. There are several Podcast tools that let you record right from your computer. You can offer podcasts directly on your website or use mass distributors like iTunes and BlogTalk Radio to reach a wider audience based on topics of interests.

Really there are no limits as to how you can repackage your stories and research. You already did the work. Now it’s time to make it work for you.

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