I’m developing a serious hate-on for my first chapter. Even when I was writing it I thought it was a bit weak, but now the further I progress – and the more I read about proper first-chapter development – the more I want to rip it up (or since it’s entirely digital, select-all-delete, I guess) and start fresh. There’s way too much back story and not enough dialogue, and a lot of it comes off a bit smug, I think. Chapter two is on similarly shaky ground, although it has some elements of mystery and foreshadowing that are important to the rest of the story. Both deal with character development, I suppose – it’s not like the first 12,000 words are a recitation of the periodic table of elements or anything similiarly pointless – but when I read it back to myself, I think “boring, boring, boring” or maybe TL;DR. Which is the kiss of death for any novel, as I’ve been told over and over. I care about Callie because she lives in my head, and I’ll listen to pretty much anything she tells me, but I’m not sure, having just read the first chapter, that anyone else would. By the time you get to the end of chapter two, I think there’s definitely incentive to keep reading, but the fickle reader, short on time, might decide to move on to something else if the first ten pages don’t capture their interest.
But I have a problem, and that problem is revision.
I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve never revised anything I’ve written. Ever. I don’t do drafts. I do final products. This is how I would write papers in university: I would do all my research, get all my supporting arguments and quotes in order, then sit on it for a week or two and plan the whole thing out in my head, going over and over it until I liked the way it fit together. Then, usually a day or two before it was due, I would sit down and write the entire thing in one sitting, from beginning to end. I’d usually check it over once for spelling and grammar – I often mis-type ‘from’ as ‘form,’ for instance – and then print it and submit. The end. I graduated with a GPA of 3.78 so obviously the system works well for me – when it comes to 5,000-word papers, that is. Obviously this project is a bit bigger than that, which is why, without all the mulling and stewing and planning in my head beforehand that’s occurred with the major scenes but not the connecting ones, I’m sometimes only able to produce 500 words an hour.
So I find myself in unchartered territory here. I need to revise. I need to strip and chop and rebuild and strengthen. It’s not what I’m used to. It’s not something I imagine I’m all that proficient at – I need to find some good ‘how to revise your writing’ blog posts – but sooner or later, I need to head down that road. And with all my unfamiliarity with the process, I have no idea if I should be doing that now, while it’s especially bothering me, or just keep moving forward, and make that the first agenda on the revision task sheet. I have a feeling if I don’t deal with it soon, my feelings about chapter one are going to get worse and worse until I start to question the entire project’s worth, which won’t be good for my future as a novelist. But it seems like such a step backwards, a giving-in to the inner editor who really needs to just shut up and let me work, dammit. I am open to suggestion and wisdom and experience from all sources.
Next up in the series I may start calling My Failings As A Proper Novelist: Why I Also Don’t Write Outlines (But Should Get Over That, Already)