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editing

Why You Should Give Up (on that first chapter)

Why You Should Give Up (on that first chapter)

why you should give up on that first chapter

The harsh reality of life, of the book writing life, is that many of us do not have a clear idea of our book’s endings or if we do, the characters do something that changes said ending. This creates the need for necessary changes during the editing process.

So why must you specifically focus on the first chapter?

The two must be mirror images of each other. It doesn’t matter if you have crafted the world’s best opening paragraph and the entire chapter sings with enchanted prose, if it does not create a duet, you’re in trouble.

When you come to the end of a first draft, you know the characters better. You understand that they have handled situations differently than you thought they would. They are no longer the same people that you created in chapter one, and sometimes they are going in completely different directions. 

For the sake of your readers, scrap chapter one. Read through your manuscript as though you were one of your readers, don’t take any notes. After you have finished, go back and read both the first and last chapters. These should be able to stand on their own. Is the prose similar? Is your protagonist facing the same kind of choices? Is his final victory reflected in chapter one?

If you can’t bring yourself to scrap the entire chapter (its not as bad as you’d think, trust me) then do this little exercise: write 3-4 different opening paragraphs. Push yourself. Try setting the scene differently. I went through four different settings for The Clouds Aren’t White and then changed again after the book was finished, because my protagonist and the plot were screaming for it.

So, give up on the first draft. Recreate your world and let the beauty of your writing shine.

10 Things I Learned Writing My First Novel

10 Things I Learned Writing My First Novel

1. It takes much longer than you would think: I finished the first draft of The Clouds Aren’t White in three months. I thought to myself, ‘hah this writing isn’t too bad. I’ll be done in four more months.’ That was not the case. 

2. You spend 4x as long editing as you do writing: Every writer will tell you this. The first draft is the easy part. The second and third drafts are harder. Editing is the hardest. Somehow you have to take a first draft and make it into a story that flows, that makes sense, that has proper grammar…something worth reading in other words.

3. You'll rewrite at least one chapter, usually the first and/or the last: This happened. When I read the first draft over, six weeks later, I wanted to gag myself. The first chapter was awful and it in no way coincided with the ending. Also I added another two chapters. This was actually the fun part, bringing the story full circle.

4. There are a thousand achievements to celebrate: First draft. First revision. Second revision. Third revision. Editing finished. Writing a dedication. Sending off to agents. Sending off to more agents. Deciding to self publish. Getting a cover. Uploading to amazon. Website going live. Book release date. Getting the advance copy of the paperback. First sale. It goes on. 

Disclaimer: My husband no longer drinks champagne with me…apparently we’ve “celebrated too much.” Whatever. Celebrate on.

5. Your family will get tired of hearing about the book: This happens. Sadly. Its hard to understand just how much courage it takes to make a simple file upload on amazon or what it feels like to lay awake at night, sure that the world will laugh in your face for the book and label you a fake. Or perhaps even worse, that no one will ever buy it. 

It takes so much courage to write a book. It takes dedication and perseverance to get through the hardest part…yourself.

6. Getting an agent is as difficult/almost impossible as they say: I sent my query letter out to thirty agents all of whom were meticulously researched to make sure that they were accepting novels and that my book would be a good fit. It totaled out to twenty nine rejections. The only ‘yes’ I got was from an agent that had a dubious reputation in the literary world. Keep going. Your book is worth it. Rejection doesn’t reflect upon you.

7. You'll want to quit at some point. Or many points: All I wanted was for it to be easy. I wanted to quickly find an agent and a publisher and sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Then it didn’t turn out that way. I seriously considered not self publishing. I wanted to quit. I did.

8. There will be spelling mistakes in your published manuscript: It happens. Get over it. Who cares if the grammar nut reviewed your book and commented on it. No one else cares…as long as they aren’t rampant and distract from the narrative. 

9. You'll cry. My husband has come to realize that this is just a part of living with an author. I cry when I’m thrilled with what I’ve done. I cry when I hate it and want it all to go away. I cry when the words sound like a three year old. I cry because I’m sure that sentence is literary perfection. I also cried when I uploaded files to Amazon and CreateSpace. I cried when my family wasn’t as thrilled as I hoped they would be. Crying is ok. Being disappointed is ok, just don’t let it become every day. Try again tomorrow. Do something different tomorrow.

10. Holding the book, seeing it for sale online, will make all the pain worth it: Crying again. There’s something, a part of you, out there in the world. A thing of beauty that you’ve created and that’s something very few people can say. Be proud. Don’t let sales or likes or shares get in the way of the wonderful thing you’ve accomplished.

Life Cycle of a Novel

Life Cycle of a Novel

I’d like to share today, what it takes to get a novel from mind to page and then to readers. This is not an easy process. This is not simply “having time” to write a novel. It takes much more than a decent grasp of a language to write a book. Irregardless of the talent, it takes great strength of mind to come through the process and out the other side. 

So, using the example of my novel, here is a general outline of the time and energy it takes. Through this process I had a part time job, was (and still am) a stay at home mother. 

Phase 1: First draft. 

3 months.

Phase 2: Break. Think of the book as a good wine. It needs time to sit. 

6-8 weeks

Phase 3: Revision. Consists of read through of the book, rewriting chapters as needed.

4 weeks

Phase 4: Second Revision. This phase usually consists of making the book cohesive, if the ending has changed.

4 weeks

Phase 5: I call this the ‘prose phase,’ wherein I delete most of the dialogue and give each character their own distinct voice.

4 weeks

Phase 6: Editing. Editing consists of grammar and punctuation so that the manuscript is readable.

4 weeks

Phase 7: Beta reader phase. Send off the manuscript to beta-readers and get their feedback. This can take longer than anticipated.

2 months

Phase 8: Implementing beta-reader revisions.

4 weeks

Phase 9: Final edit

2 weeks

Phase 10: Send to agents/publishers

3 months

From here on out, depending on the reactions that you get from agents, it can take another year for your book to be traditionally published, if you are fortunate enough to get a publisher. If you decide to self publish, the book can be on Amazon within the week.

So…the grand total…16 months of long hard days filled with work.

And at the end…joy.