Monday, February 28, 2011

Rewriting. Again. And Again.

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.


  1. So, you're (once again) in my brain. Yes. I've managed to pull out my first novel EVER to re-visit for a third, possibly fourth time? This. Helped. Greatly. Helped me realize that when you "set things up" for your reader in hopes they get it...well, guess another go around with this project isn't a bad thing. In fact, it truly does not suck.


  2. Excellent :).

    I would like to point out that this is a coincidence in names, not me posting to me about how awesome I am. Though, that's not a bad idea.....