Monday, May 23, 2011

Opening chapter dilemmas

We all know that the opening chapter is the most important of the book. If it's the smoothest, the most interesting, the most gripping, the most intriguing, and a whole lot of other superlatives, then it will hook the agent, the publisher, the reader. There's a lot riding on that first writing.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a killer response to a prompt about an older woman who walks into a bar in New Mexico. It had a good zing to it. A few months later, I wrote a short story out of it and it was even better. She meets a cowboy who proposes to her on the spot. It's told first person, the narrator is clever, self-aware, kind of funny, and the end is enigmatic.

I liked it so much that I began to wonder what could happen next for this pair and so I started my second novel. Ellie, the narrator from the first chapter, has many adventures and the book went in a whole different direction than I had anticipated: from romance to mystery and back to romance. Two weeks ago at the beach, I jumped into a second draft. And here comes the dilemma:

The narrator from that much-loved first chapter isn't quite the same woman as in the rest of the book. And since most of the rest of the book precedes the first chapter, she doesn't fit. So I'm in the process of creating (not just rewriting) a new first chapter that fits this book. And it is quite the challenge.

I've decided to write at least two versions: third-person and first-person. And I think I'll do a third version in third person from another character's point of view. I like challenges like this. I know it's really going to stretch me to do this.

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