Monday, December 13, 2010

The Chapter One Blues

Recently, I had the good fortune of winning two different critiques on the first few pages of my NaNo WIP, StarSong. One from Roni Loren and the other from her agent Sara Megibow. They just returned my critiques and wow! So helpful! Roni picked out so many areas that were concerns for me anyway, and Sara gave such great advice, as well as some surprising praises.

I was so mind-bogglingly lucky to win both these critiques, but now I'm back to square one with my WIP and doing a first chapter rewrite. UGH! First chapters are always my weak spots. I can never seem to nail it like I want. And I've read all the popular guides: The First Five Pages, Hooked, etc. But I always have trouble getting it like it needs to be.

Roni's and Sara's feedback was such a humongous help, and it's a start in the right direction. I've already rewritten chapter one and I'm going to sit on it awhile and let it slow cook. Meanwhile, I plan to go back and reread some writing manuals to see if I'm on the right track.

I'm looking forward to getting caught up with all of your blogs in the next few weeks. My apologies for not having been around as much.... I was just so consumed with my WIP.

But I leave you with some words of wisdom from Noah Lukeman. May it help get you where you need to be with your own WIPs:

Forget the writing before you and instead summon your original intention when setting out to write your book. Go over each chapter and ask yourself what your goal was when you set out to write that chapter. Did you have any general ideas about where you wanted it to go? Did it go there? If not, where did you go off course? When you went off course, could it be the source of some other point? Does it belong here? Can you add anything to the chapter to help bolster your original intention?


On a side note, my love letter to Sirius Black for the Harry Potter Blogfest made it to the top 5. Yay! If you wouldn't mind hopping on over to Michael's blog and voting (up in top right hand corner of his blog) I'd appreciate it. Of course, I'd love you  to vote for me, but read the other entries too... they're all fantastic and fun. Vote for your fave! I'm sure all the contestants would appreciate it. :)

Now, what techniques, if any, do you have for nailing that dynamite chapter one? Is it a weak area for you too? If not, share your wisdom.  

25 comments:

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

First chapters are tough because they have so much to do: introduce characters, setting, conflict, etc. Sometimes they really do need a lot of revision, especially if your vision of the book changes. Keep at it, and good luck!

Quinn said...

I've written two first chapters. I have no problem with starting at the right point. However, with the first book's first chapter, I gave too much description and info. So, with the second one, I really had to work on that. I guess it's just hard knowing what to include and what can wait. I don't have any techniques that can help though.

The Golden Eagle said...

I love writing the first chapters--it's usually a chance for me to get my ideas down more concretely, which is a big help for deciding what's going to happen later. But they can be hard, too; for that same reason, there's a lot to write!

JEFritz said...

I read once that the first thing you should do when you finish a book is throw out the first chapter : )

While I don't usually go that far, I do cut out a lot, mostly excess description I used to get a feel for the story. In my recent book, I put the inciting event in the first chapter and wrote around that. And rewrote and rewrote! Good luck!

Trisha Leaver said...

First chapters are always the hardest. So much pressure to make them perfect, to make the agent want to turn the page and keep reading. Good luck. If you need help, just shoot me an email.

DL Hammons said...

Don't get me started about first chapters. I've had a running debate with a few of my beta's about mine for a long time, and I refuse to change it. Someday, when I get around to querying it, we'll find out whose right. :)

Nas Dean said...

I read in one craft book, that we should write first chapters then subsequent chapters and when we are revising, then cut an interesting, inciting incident and make that your first chapter starting! Hope you can understand what is meant by it.

Melissa said...

I found after finishing my novel that the first third of the book, where everything is getting established, is the hardest for me to write because I'm impatient and just want to get to the good stuff!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Starting off with a bang of action - had trouble with that with my book, and my publisher helped fix it.

Norma Beishir said...

I'm really surprised to see so many here who struggle with first chapters. The majority of writers have the most trouble with the middle of the book!

Florence said...

I have to agree with Norma on this one. I walk around for a few days with a line stuck in my head. Twice that line became the first line of a book.

It's a process that needs all our patience and not matter where you get stuck or have problems, you will still end up with seven or eight drafts, revisions, rewrites and ... Oh, look how eazy that was once I got my mojo working.

That was great news about winning a critique from both of them. Good work, PK.

Nathalie said...

How awesome for you to receive those critiques! Great job, PK. First chapters are so pivotal. I read a lot and pay specific attention to the first chaps of each book I read. What grabbed me right off? How was the MC introduced? What was the initial conflict? It's hard to master, as I have yet to do it as well, so until we all become New York Times Bestsellers, (and I'm sure it will happen, PK!) we'll keep on, keepin' on.

Tara said...

Ugh. First Chapters. I'm on my 3rd, maybe 4th (na final). Not to say that each of those weren't edited a million times themselves.

I find that for my first chapter to really begin where I need it to, I have to finish the book first.

LTM said...

Didn't JK Rowling rewrite the first chapter of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone like 12 times? And she broke all kind of rules...

I think just write what's in your heart, yes? And then get some good CPs to help you iron it out/make it sing. That's super-awesome btw about you winning that crit. I saw that~ :o) <3

kmckendry said...

My old creative writing teacher said what JEFritz said. Write the whole thing then cut out ch.1 and start with ch.2. I don't usually go to that extreme but when I keep it in mind, I think I get the action started quicker. Congrats on your winning!

Jannette Fuller said...

Hi PK! WOW!!!!!!!!!!Congrats on winning the critiques on your few pages. SWEET!!!!!! =)

I will be sure to head over and vote for ya, right now. Your hard work is paying off. =D I've taken a long break from my two novels. I need to get on the ball and start ripping them up and fusing them together. I dread the process, probably take me a couple of years to get it right. =)I hope you have a blessed Christmas and awesome NEW YEAR!

~Jannette~

T C Mckee said...

Oh yeah, my first chapter has been rewritten so many times, that my editing beta friend has no idea what to expect next. I've just never felt completely comfortable with it. Chapter 2 and beyond, not so much trouble. I think I may have a faulty line somewhere between my brain and my hands, I don't know, but I just get so intimidated by the first chapter. I mean, it's so important. I know what's in my head, I just can't get it down right. But it gets better each time. I guess this is the norm for most of us. You'll get it and so will I. I just know it!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Last chapters and first chapters - always the hardest. They are also related - the first chapter being the last chapter in disguise (someone said that, I can't remember who). Also: I voted for you! :)

Hannah Kincade said...

I'm actually not bad at first chapters, it's everything in between! LOL! I'm a great starter and an okay finisher but I have a hard time rambling on. I mostly right shorts and it's hard to change gears every now again.

Tracy said...

Gosh, I HATE first chapters. They are my least favorite of them all. I go through the same thing!

It's easy to pepper in the story and details throughout the rest of the book, but it can be hard to find the right tone to introduce the characters and the story in. Or how much detail to give to make people feel drawn in without overloading them.

Very frustrating!!

klahanie said...

Hi there,
First of all, hearty congratulations on winning those critiques. I'm delighted for you and no doubt, this keeps you inspired.
When it comes to writing, I have much respect and admiration for aspiring and established writers.
Personally, I have no particular writing style and thus, under no pressure, whatsoever. I'm a 'grammar anarchist' :-) Take very good care and continued happy writing.
With respect and kind wishes, Gary.

Beth said...

Good luck with your new chapter 1. Rewrites are so hard...I've got query blues right now :(.

beth-project52.blogspot.com

Angela Ackerman said...

I never struggle with writing a first chapter, but revising it? Ugh. It's the pressure I think. When we're unpublished, the editor or agent on the other end has no expectations whether we can craft a good story or not, and so we really have to put our heart into every word to launch the story perfectly. It's hard work, but pays off. Grats on winning those crits!

Angela @ the Bookshelf Muse

Rachael Harrie said...

Hey, congrats on top 5 and on winning the critiques. I've rewritten my first chapter so many times. Ugh. Now I'm going to let it sit and stew for a while ;)

Rach

Roni Loren said...

So glad you found the critiques helpful! I agree with you, first chapters are so tough. I think it's just all the pressure we put on ourselves. Plus, when you first start a book, that first chapter is where we're still getting OUR thoughts together about who and what is happening. I agree with whoever above gave the advice of write the whole book, then worry about the first chapter. By the end of the book, you'll have a lot better idea of what needs to happen in that first chapter.

Have a great new year!