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Writing Begins–Crafting Chapter One

Boy oh boy, what a day to begin a book. I had forgotten that I had an appointment with the eye doctor today until my PDA alarm started pinging this morning. I spent a total of four hours with my eyes dilated. Still, I managed, somehow, to write ten pages.

Chapter One. I like to start off a book with a unique, memorable scene. Oh, and if it’s a little outrageous, that’s okay. I don’t rein myself in at this stage of writing.

It’s important to hook the reader within the first ten pages. Have you ever plucked a book off a bookstore shelf, looked at the cover, flipped it over and read the back cover copy–but since you were still undecided about making the purchase, you opened it and read the first page or two? If it intrigued you, hooked you, you likely bought it. If not, you returned it to the shelf.

The first ten pages are key, whether your audience is a reader, an agent or an editor.

I attended a writers conference a couple years ago and heard an editor give some really great advice. She said to keep your first three chapters in the moment. She continued by saying that an author should never feed information to readers until they absolutely need it to understand the story.

Forget flashbacks and chunks of back story at this point. Why? Because the reader doesn’t care a lick about your character yet. Insert the past later, when the reader is invested, when unfolding the past can bring a deeper, layered understanding of your character. Sound advice, no? Yes, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are few.

The first three chapters are all about discovery for me. Who is my heroine? What drives her? I think my pre-writing questions from the past two days helped me get a grasp on her. There is no question that she’s the most important character in the book. Readers will experience the story primarily through her. I have to get a handle on my heroine quickly.

I introduced the hero today as well. Usually, it takes a few chapters before my hero really comes to life for me. But he actually appeared today. Admittedly, he was only present for about five pages, and the heroine and her sisters had center stage. Still, he was there–and he was a bit wicked. Loved it.

The pages nearly wrote themselves. And when I read them aloud, I actually liked what I wrote. I did notice one problem though. Something I need to correct soon. My heroine and her sisters sound alike. If I didn’t include some clue as to which sister was speaking, the reader wouldn’t know. It’s imperative that I develop a unique voice for each character–so unique that I can write a half page or more of dialogue and there will never be any question as to which character is speaking.

I am not surprised that I can’t ‘hear’ them yet. I don’t know them. But I will, soon.

 

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