Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chapter One

Chapter One contains about 2600 words, not very much of that count in dialogue. When I first started writing this, I wasn't very comfortable with dialogue because I don't think that the main character, Cherry had a voice in my head quite yet. I think that the "grab" for this story is quite strong, and getting further along in the story, I had at one point thought of moving some things around which would compromise that grab. Thankfully, I worked it out so that I never had to do that because I really think that the first chapter is solid and strong.

After I have read and reread this chapter so many times, I finally had to stop trying to edit it. I got stuck in a wicked loop where all I tried to do was make this first chapter the best that I could but it left my writing in a stall. I finally had to promise myself that I would only go back to that first chapter for reference in further chapters, and to make sure continuity was the same, but aside from that I won't touch it anymore.

That brings up a very important point; If you spend so much time in correcting every tiny little mistake, you are never going to get any further into what you are writing. You'll become so discouraged by the fact that you have tweaked one little part past the point of recognition or even relevance to the story that you won't even like the story any more. You have to limit yourself on the time that you spend on one section or one chapter, and find yourself just moving on. I think that this was what caused me to leave the story for so long and come back to it. I edited it to death. Spend more of your time getting the bones of the story down and worry about flesh and skin later. Continuity issues can be addressed as you find them, but lingering in one place for too long in a story can kill it for you.

Once I was able to get past all of the editing I was doing and I finally read it for what it was and not what it could be, I really loved what I had and started working on it once again. While there is a lot of moving forward and backward in time in the main character's conscious and subconscious, every person who has beta-read the story for me has been able to keep up with what was happening in the story, insofar as the story allowed at that time. The point was to keep the reader feeling uneasy and unsure, because that is where the main character is, mentally and physically.

One of my favorite things about the first chapter is how far you really get to go into who Cherry is. She is, at times, a total contradiction of herself. I think that in a way we are all that way. We are proud yet frightened, strong yet weak, crazy yet sane. I think that people are going to be able to find their own ways to relate to Cherry and for that I am thankful.

As you are writing your own first chapter, maybe you can ask yourself what you really need or want the reader to know about your main character. Do the really need to know what kind of breakfast cereal your character eats? I had to start to limit myself on how much I was telling. Do you find yourself doing the same? Also, does your character have a voice in your head? One of the best ways to relate to a character as a reader is if the writer knows that character inside and out.

What are your own goals for your story? What do you wish to accomplish with your first chapter? What can you do for yourself as a novelist to accomplish those things?

Happy writing and/or reading everyone! I think it's about time I got myself to sleep before I get a little too overzealous about this blog. Good night!


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. Press on fix it later. Often later you realize it doesn't need any fixing at all. Almost everyone works with proofreaders and editors; they will catch obvious stuff.

    If you get a chance, check out Ira Glass (the guy from the radio serial "This American Life") on storytelling on YouTube. This clip reminded me that you have to withhold something the reader is dying to know.

  2. Thank you for the link, I love listening to that show! Will have to check it out, maybe do a little blog about it later if it pans out and seems useful to would-be readers. :)