After working through my YA novel and revising it from stem to stern, I am circling back to the beginning and looking with a fresh eye (or at least, trying to) at my real problem child: the first chapter. Everyone makes such a big deal about the opening that it’s hard not to tense up whenever I think about it.
My friend and mentor Rob Gilbert says that when something big is happening you should focus on making it important but not special (Success Hotline: 973.743.4690). That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with the opening, but so much seems to be riding on it. Many agents only want to see the first 10 pages of a manuscript — which means they’re looking at the opening.
Right now, I have at least three versions I’m playing around with. To give me a fresh perspective, Alex offered to read them. His initial feedback has been helpful, but I’m still struggling with this paper puppy — and working hard to get to the point where it reads smoothly and does what I want it to do. Definitely not there yet. But here’s what I know:
I know that it is getting better and moving in the right direction. I know that it conveys a lot about my characters and has some promising plot points. I know that it’s beginning to find a flow that feels natural and in harmony with the rest of my story.
Am I there yet? No. Do I feel that things are a bit messy and still in flux? Yes. But here’s the deal: I’ve decided to be OK with the uncertainty I’m feeling right now. I’ve decided to relax rather than tense up about it, because a relaxed mind is a creative mind — and that’s exactly what I need. So bring on the chaos, the confusion, the mixing and matching of bits of story, the up-in-the-air, unsettled feeling I have about my story’s beginning. I can handle it. All of it. And if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Write on!
Karen i know you have a winner because I have read your posts before and feel like I have a sense of your ability. We are always our worst critic and I understand what you mean about the opening, It can be terrifying to think our hard work will be dismissed if we do not present the best face. I am glad to hear you have accepted that it will work out and you will not let this drive you nuts. I am anxious to hear how well it goes.
Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement — they really gave me a boost! I so appreciate your support and vote of confidence. It really helps me to share where I am and the obstacles I’m facing with other writers — it reminds me that I’m not alone. I hope you work is going well and will keep you posted as my new Chapter 1 takes shape.
Write on, Karin
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