by Annette Dashofy
Pat’s blog yesterday was the perfect prelude to what I planned to write about today. Which is this:
I hate first chapters.
Except I don’t mean READING them. I mean WRITING them.
This spring I finally completed the first draft of the manuscript I’d been working on for almost three years. What a joy to type those sweet two little words THE END. Then I worked on drafts two and three until it was ready to be sent out into the cold, cruel publishing world. Or as ready as I could make it. (Who am I kidding? I’m still making notes about things I want to change before my next round of queries.)
If THE END are my two favorite words to write, I have to confess my least favorite two words are CHAPTER ONE.
This week I started my next novel. I love the idea I have in my head for how the story begins. But somehow it hasn’t translated to the page. Pat pointed out the importance of those first five lines. I already knew that, but having her stress them as I’m facing the stark white computer screen was perfect timing. Or not.
Which brings me to the only reason I can deal at all with the dreaded first chapter…namely the shitty first draft. Thank you, Anne Lamont, for giving me that term as well as the permission to write crap.
Because that is exactly what I think of my first chapter so far. To be honest, I rather like my first sentence. But it falls apart after that. I reread what I’ve written and gnash my teeth. Then Anne Lamont comes to mind, and I keep going.
Yesterday I eked out four measly pages. Today, I’ll probably delete about half of it. With any luck I’ll end up with something resembling a complete chapter by Friday when my critique group meets. Then I’ll probably delete most of it again.
I should mention writing Chapters Two and Three isn’t much better. Usually by the fourth chapter, I get into a groove and the story starts to take over. Unfortunately, I have to scratch and claw my way through those opening lines and pages and chapters to get there.
So I want to thank Pat (and everyone who commented, confirming the importance of the first few lines). No stress.
What I’d like to know is does everyone struggle to get started? Or do you blow out of the gates in full stride? Are middles harder for you to write? Or do you dread the big conclusion?