My novel needed a new first chapter. I had one that jumped in time, and it was confusing. I had another that sort of plopped you into the novel in a way that didn’t draw the reader in. So I went back to the drawing board (or the computer screen, as the case may be) and wrote a new first chapter. I found the perfect point in time for the novel to start. I wrote beautiful words that just fell into place. I read it and read it again, and it was just right.
Then I realized that toward the end of my book, there was a scene missing. It wasn’t glaring, no one was going to read the novel and think, “Hey, why wasn’t that in there!” but it’s a scene that just makes sense to have, I thought. So I wrote it. Wasn’t sure about it. Did it come across as filler or did it really further my plot along? Was it believable? Did it drag?
This morning I had my writing group. Oh how I love my writing group. For starters, being in a room with other writers means being with people who simply understand. Who don’t ask why my novel isn’t for sale. Who don’t ask why I don’t just publish something. Who empathize that it takes years to–I almost wrote “perfect,” but to a writer, nothing is ever “perfected”–finish a novel to a writer’s almost satisfaction. Then, of course, is the feedback. My group has fresh eyes and can see things I miss, can tell me where holes need to be filled. The world of my novel is so firmly grounded in my mind that I can make leaps that a reader might not make. And the group can call me on those.
We went over my two new chapters. And as suspected, one needs a lot of work and one is great as is. But, of course, as you can probably guess, I had it backwards. They didn’t buy my first chapter. I think “baffled” was the word one of them used. Whereas for the chapter I was uncertain about words like “adored” and “loved” were bandied about. When they explained why they were confused by the first chapters, I wanted to smack myself on the head for not seeing it. And when they showed what they liked about that other chapter, it became clear to me that, “Yes, this really is a critical part of the story.”
So now, it’s back to Chapter 1, which isn’t as scary as it seems, because Chapters 2 through 22 are in great shape. I just need to get that Chapter 1 so compelling that the reader feels s/he must keep reading. Back to the computer screen!