Staring Down the Barrel of Chapter One

Staring Down the Barrel of Chapter OneI have heard that the first chapter of a novel is the most rewritten chapter of all. I have also heard this is because everything that we want our novel to be and everything that it should be comes spooling out of those first words, sentences, and paragraphs. If the groundwork for the rest of the book isn’t compellingly laid out for our potential readers, and if our readers aren’t hooked by our initial efforts, our novel is doomed. No pressure there.

For the past week, I have been staring at the pages of the first chapter in my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. Based on the paragraph above, you can probably guess what my current goal is. Still, I refuse to force my story into an outline or someone else’s expectations and/or opinions of what my novel, as a whole, should be. I will, however, accept advice that helps me tell my story the way I know it needs to be told.

Today, I’m stocking my Writing Toolbox with two pieces of writing advice relevant to my situation. The first comes from Jacob M. Appel’s March 29, 2011, post for Writer’s Digest, 10 Ways to Start Your Story Better. I’ll be employing a combination of Mr. Appel’s suggestions to refine the essence of my first chapter.

The second, more recent piece of writing advice is from K.M. Weiland, Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 38: Irrelevant Book Endings. I’m exploring the end of my novel to ensure that the beginning of my book set up my desired ending. If not, a chapter one rewrite and restructure may be in order.

Somewhere, an outliner is screaming, “You could have avoided this if you’d only outlined to begin with.” That may be true, but I enjoy exploring the rabbit trails too much. It’s where I often receive my next piece of writing inspiration, and I’m certainly not interested in turning off the creative supply outlet.

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