Posts tagged revising
Posts tagged revising
Let’s face it: first chapters are hard.
When you’re writing your first draft, you’re writing for yourself—getting to know your characters and their world. You should let everything spill out on the page free of your inner editor’s censorship.
But when you’re revising, it’s a different story. You’ll need to cut a whole lot of info you’ve put into the opening chapters. Don’t delete anything—save it for later to scatter through the book.
You’re going to end up with an opening chapter that’s way different from the one you started with. And that’s as it should be. In fact your entire original Chapter One may end up being one of those darlings you have to kill.
I usually write the final draft of my first chapter last. That’s because I won’t know exactly what needs to be in there until I’ve got the ending all polished up.
An ideal first chapter should do the following things:
1) Introduce the main character.
You want to open with a scene involving the protagonist. Yes, I know the standard opening of every cop show on TV involves random strangers discovering a body or getting killed. This is something that works great in drama but not in a novel.
Whoever we meet first in a book is the character we’ll bond with. If that person gets killed on page five, we feel cheated.
We don’t need to know a huge amount about the MC right away, but we need to know enough to care. You can be very sketchy about looks (all Jane Austen told us about Elizabeth Bennett is that she had “fine eyes”.)
We probably need to know gender, age and maybe social status/work/position in society, but most of all, we need to know the emotions the character is feeling in the scene—preferably something the reader can identify with.
Here’s how I open Ghostwriters in the Sky:
“The subway car was so crowded I couldn’t tell which one of the sweaty men pressing against me was attached to the hand now creeping up my thigh. I should have known better than to wear a dress on a day I had to take the subway, but in the middle of a New York heat wave, I couldn’t face another day in a pants suit.”
I haven’t used any description of the protagonist, but we can tell she’s 1) female 2) a worldly city dweller who takes things in stride 3) not rich enough to take a taxi 4) employed in some way that usually requires wearing a suit 5) way too polite for her own good.
We can also identify with her distress at being groped. She’s in an uncomfortable situation and we hope for her to escape without harm.
As the "Now What?" Months continue, we’ll be hearing from agents, editors, self-publishers, and authors about the road towards sharing your work. We’ve asked several authors to interview their agents for a peek behind the curtain at what it takes to write and sell a book. Today, Stacey Lee and her agent Kristin Nelson discuss the long road between rejection and redemption:
Stacey Lee: You’ve said that the one word that sums up your inbox in December is NaNoWriMo. Any words of advice for those coming off of their NaNo drafts?
Like most newspaper reporters, I got into the biz because a) I love writing and b) I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a sobering profession. You file your masterpiece, only to find your editor thinks it’s two dozen “tinks” shy of publishable. Repeat this scenario a couple hundred times, and you’ll find you’ve grown some thick skin. You’ve also gotten pretty darn good at self-editing. So, I’m here to impart some wisdom on the art of quickly perfecting your own workâhow to hone, trim, and morph clumsy words and phrases into a clear, concise message that will wow your audience.
Check out Caroline McMillan’s Life Hacker article on editing your own writing, it contains some great tips.
The Revision Process #amrevising
By Crawford Kilian
In the narrative:
1. Do any sentences begin with the words “There” or “It”? They can almost certainly benefit from revision. (Compare: There were three gunmen who had sworn to kill him. It was hard to believe. or: Three gunmen had sworn to kill him. He couldn’t believe it.)