Today’s post is going to be another quick one as I want to get back into the thick of things. But since I started writing recently, it seems important to at least mention some things about my first chapter. Keep in mind that this blog is not an “advice” blog, but more of a chronicle of what I’m doing and why. It’s apparent to me that there are some writers who are planning to extrapolate some of what I’m saying here to their own writing…and this may be one of those cases where you shouldn’t do what I say. I will provide a post for what I “advise” writers who are staring out…but keep in mind that I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have 22 novels under my belt so my approach probably isn’t appropriate for new writers.
So, on Sunday (one day early) I started writing Rhune. I’ve struggled with the opening, reworking it several times, and coming at it from different approaches. I wanted to start out with something compelling so I began with a murder. When I got done it was “good” but not “great.” For me, the first chapter being really good is very important because:
- I use it to set the tone and balance for the rest of the book
- When I get “stuck” later on in the book I usually re-read starting at the start, and if it sucks I’ll become discouraged, but if it’s really good it lets me know there is hope.
- I’ve done several books where what I “think” is the start really isn’t the start when all is said and done, but as my skill grows I pretty much know where to start nowadays.
So what was wrong with my beginning? Well you would think a murder would be pretty exciting, but I found myself having to do too much to set the stage for the murder that it didn’t start out quick and exciting out of the gate. This is a huge problem for me. I like openings that grab you by the throat and don’t let you go.
So after a few different approaches I decided to slide the timeline back and actually start it with the chase of the murders just after the murder occurred. I found this worked better for me. It has some fast-paced action, but the more important aspect is it provides some mysteries and questions to engage the readers. The trick is in walking that line between holding back and providing a foundation.
- Sunday was spent trying on the various openings for size and by the end of the day, I had pretty much settled on the approach. I wrote just over 3,000 words.
- Monday was spent polishing, tightening, getting it to the stage that I’m happy with it. This trimmed it down to about 2,800 words, even after writing the “second section.
- Today I can concentrate on advancing along the outline. The start will be edited several times as I go do some re-reading but for now I find it at a stage I need to in order to move on.
As I said this is the chronicle for “me” and for the writers following, I’ll give my recommendations for YOU in tomorrow’s post.