Howdy folks! I'm on a two day revision stent right now and whipping my WIP into better shape. Thank goodness for fabulous CPs and beta readers. What would we do without them, eh??
One of the things I was concerned with in my story was the first three chapters. I had reason to believe the pacing was slowed and there wasn't enough action. But I wasn't positive, and I still loved my first chapter.
I scoured the internet for some advice, and found this video from DearEditor.com. Worth a listen for sure. I'm highlighting a few key points you may find helpful if you're struggling with the same issue.
Editor Deborah Halverson says, "Ditch the setup."
Say what?? I wasn't even sure if my first few chapters were setup, but after listening to her break it down, I reconsidered. And it's not like I'm a newbie novelist. I've been writing for six years and on my seventh manuscript. Still, I fell into this setup snafu.
Halverson says most manuscripts she reads are guilty of telling too much about the characters up front, instead of putting them into action. Readers want to see the characters living in their world, and learn more about their personalities through revealing moments.
On the other hand, I know from experience that too much action up front is a turnoff. We need to get to know a little bit about the character (even if only a few lines) before they get in that car wreck, or find that dead body, or ->insert plot point of choice<- here. But we can also bury our readers in backstory and setup too early on, which slows the pace.
Halverson says to consider, for example, having your MC stuck in a tree and show the reader what resources or ingenuity she uses to get herself out. This is how we get to know the character. Find that perfect dynamic to put the reader in her world and watch her in action. Readers don't need a breakdown of how the characters got where they are. Just put the scene in motion.
I know many authors suggest nixing the first few chapters altogether and getting right to the catalyst. (not to be confused with the inciting incident). Don't know the difference between the catalyst and inciting incident? Check out YouTube for the Plot Whisperer videos. She does a fabulous job of breaking it all down. Plus they're free!
After listening to the full Dear Editor video that I linked above, I decided to merge my first two chapters and get the story moving faster. I still liked my original first chapter and felt it worked, and if I were a successful and well renowned novelist, I doubt it would've held back the reader. But since I'm just a squirrel-scribe with a nutty idea of being a novelist, I did what traditional editors suggest works best.
So how about you? Are you guilty of too much setup? Find yourself falling into little story structure traps you weren't even aware of? We all do at times. Tell me all about it....