A few weeks ago I was patting myself on the back because I had written three chapters of my WIP in one day.
Then life stepped in and I was unable (or too uncommitted) to go back. When I finally checked in and read what I had written, I promptly deleted chapters two and three, and half of chapter one.
Why? Not because the writing was awful, but because it wasn’t going anywhere.
If I have learned one thing in my so-called career, it is that the beginning of a story must pack a wallop. The editor of my first two books told me on each occasion to dump the first chapter and start with chapter two.
This time, I tried to start chapter one with the all-important first sentence — the sentence that must “hook” the reader and get him or her to keep reading.
I re-wrote that first sentence many times. Then I re-wrote the first paragraph as many times again. Because that paragraph sets up the conflict. Without it, no one would read any further.
Now I am re-writing the first chapter, because that is where you lose or keep the reader. Characters and their conflicts are introduced, and the setting.
I will introduce backstory in subsequent chapters. This is tricky, because people who have read books one and two will already know the characters and setting. Only the conflict will be different. New readers, however, will need some sort of explanation of who and why and how. So this has to be done in such a way that readers familiar with the premise of the story won’t get bored and start flipping through pages.
So I’ve spent the last few days writing and then deleting, and then writing some more. It’s like trimming fat from a steak. You need enough to enhance the taste, but the rest can be tossed to the cat.
Some people think writing is easy. You sit down and start typing.
I can tell you this much from experience, for every paragraph you write, there are three (or more) you will reject. As a famous sculptor once said, the statue is in the block of marble and all he does it free it.
The story is in the words, but the author’s job is to chip away at the extra verbiage to find it.