Past Mastery

How to reveal backstory so it moves your book forward


Roz Morris


Live on Sept. 21, 2022, or watch recording


Beginning to intermediate novelists


Closed captions by Otter; transcript provided with recording

All stories need to give readers information. A lot of information! Who the characters are, what world they live in, how they know each other, what formative experiences they’ve had, how their world operates, how to catch a thief or train an owl.

But where do you put these explanations? If you put them in the wrong place, you’ll interrupt the action, losing the reader’s attention. If you don’t give the reader enough, they won’t understand why they should be interested in the story events. Either way, they stop reading. Agents and editors report that mishandling of back story is one of the commonest problems they see in authors’ manuscripts.

In this 75-minute online class (which is recorded if you can’t attend live), Roz Morris will show you:

  • The many forms of back story
  • The vital piece of back story that writers often leave out!
  • The biggest pitfalls when deploying back story
  • How much back story you need at the start
  • How to handle context, world building and exposition
  • The good and bad of prologues
  • Other stylish ways to give necessary information
  • The untapped potential you’ve missed in your back story—and how to use it to enrich the whole book
  • A writer who broke the rules … beautifully!
  • One classic principle for handling back story with panache
  • Steps and exercises to increase your awareness and help you take control of back story
  • Plenty of examples from masters of back story

Who should take this class

  • Writers working on their first novel
  • Writers of literary and mainstream fiction and genre fiction
  • Writers who struggle with back story and how to include it

This class may not be suited for

  • Nonfiction writers (such as memoirists) may find value in this class, but examples and instruction will be primarily fiction oriented.
  • Anyone who has previously taken this class with Roz (it is substantially the same as last year’s offering)

What’s included in all of Jane’s classes

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology (see system requirements). You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022
  • Time: 1:00–2:15 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific / 6:00 p.m. British
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s automated closed caption service (powered by Otter), which is about 80%+ accurate. We also use Otter AI to generate an unedited transcript, provided with the recording.

About the instructor

Roz Morris is an author, book doctor, writing coach and ghost-writer. She has extensive experience at both ends of the editor’s pen. As an editor, she has coached and developed writers of all levels, some of whom have won major awards.

She teaches a masterclass for The Guardian newspaper based on her series Nail Your Novel, is a regular on the Litopia Pop-Up Submissions show where she critiques manuscripts alongside literary agent Peter Cox, and is a prolific blogger on writing craft, writing productivity and the publishing world.

She also writes fiction and memoir, and was longlisted for the World Fantasy Award.

Roz’s webinar was extremely rewarding for me to attend, and gives me new tools to understand better how to evaluate my work now and for future publication. She provided confirmation for much of what I have done and provided me with new key items to evaluate my ongoing work.

Susan S.

I have enjoyed all of Roz Morris’s sessions. She is energetic, wise, fun, organized. Her classes have been so helpful!

Miji C.

Very clear, comprehensive, and instructive. Roz has a pleasant and encouraging delivery without providing unrealistic expectations. She offered good examples in multiple genres.

Michele D.

All students receive the following

  • Access to the live class. After roughly 60 minutes, Roz will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 75 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.