I really thought I’d nailed that first chapter. Really. Nailed. Fourth draft. The Second and third were mostly an attempt to start the thing en medias res – for the most part I lopped off several thousand words of backstory and tried to get closer to where the real beginning is. Twice.
Yeah, I still haven’t nailed it. Twice.
But that’s okay. Really it is. Disheartening, but not so much that I won’t go carve out some more and try to really really really nail it down.
While we are often told there is only one chance to make a first impression, the cool thing about writing is that we get drafts – however many we need – before we introduce our darling to the world at large. Okay – some critique partners have now met my first chapter rather more frequently than they might like (have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE you guys?), but they have all agreed to the part of the writers journey that comes before you nail the thing down correctly. This is a role we willingly play for each other.
Here’s the thing about good first chapters – we almost always write them as our ~3rd chapter or so. Somewhere between 20 – 60 pages are spent ‘setting things up’, making sure the reader understands what world we have put them in. And it turns out that those initial pages are backstory – sometimes containing important elements, but essentially just a drag on the reader before they get to the meat of your story.
And you WANT your reader to get to the meat of the story – why will anyone bother reading your story if it takes 60 pages for anything interesting to happen?
The suck part about this, is I know this fact. I know it well. I recognize easily when others do it.
And yet, I still did it. Sigh.
But, I have recognized it, have had it pointed out, have re-recognized it, and I think I am close. At least I have a plan, and some folks have heard the idea through, and I will re-write the first chapter again, and hope that I finally found the sweet spot where I dump the reader right into the middle of things without making a muddle of it.
Wish me luck with the words. And if not luck, then hope I find the right draft, whichever it is.
Back to it.
The Final Snippet: I have seen him drunk, wearing a bunny suit. (this is a contributed shoplift, so I personally did not see the guy in question drunk in a bunny suit. But having met him, I can now picture it. So, thanks for that.)
Deb Answers: Madeline in Orange County: Those are not the evening clothes you seek.