For me, with each of my manuscripts, it’s been the first chapter. Hooligans in Shining Armour follows two POV characters, Fiona and Danny. Danny’s first chapter has never been questioned. It’s solid. Fiona on the other hand….
The first several drafts, nothing changed with Fiona’s. Then a number of people from my writer’s group, including a bunch who read the whole thing, said the first chapter was too slow and introduced the readers into a world that they promptly left and never saw again. Too much “ordinary world” before “inciting incident”. That it didn’t feel connected to the rest of the story. So I cut the first chapter entirely and stuck little bits of important stuff from that chapter elsewhere. Fiona’s first chapter was basically a paragraph hinted at ordinary world then BAM! inciting incident. Then I sent it to the editor. She said that she didn’t feel connected to Fiona’s old life or her quest to return home (ha now, inciting incident too soon, not enough ordinary world). She wanted to get a sense of her life in Madison before she went to Belfast.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a first chapter together, knowing that that’s the first thing agents will read. It has so many jobs to do: establish tone/voice/genre, introduce protagonist and other main characters, show us what Fiona looks like, give us a glimpse into Fiona’s psyche, hint at what the Fiona’s journey will be, show us the world/s she lives in, and other things, too. All while being engaging and having some kind of tension on every page to keep the reader going. If the first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence isn’t attention-grabbing, you risk turning off agents and readers.
Anyway as I was sitting at the airport waiting to welcome my sister to the wonderful world of Singapore, I think I figured out how to solve both issues at once. I always get this giddy feeling when I finally solve a story conundrum and I really think I’ve done it this time with a little mix of both. Hopefully I’ll get Fiona finalized soon so I can post it! To learn more about Hooligans and read Danny’s chapter, click here.
What’s the hardest part to write in your novel? The beginning? The sagging middle? The perfect ending?