1 Jun

The revisions are done and in. This book feels “more” done than ever — itmAs — I’m happy with the new ending I didn’t want to write. My beta readers are happy with the new ending the couldn’t wait till book 2 for. The night before it was to be sent, I woke up and said, “OH! This needs to have chapter 1 totally tossed out and rewritten from scratch!”


Well, that was fun — not. Ok, maybe a little.


I learned a TON about my own writing and about reader assumption. Chapter one is even more important than we’re lead to believe. Here’s why.


I had two people who read MB look at it and report back that I have no description in the book. I found this shocking. My CP found this shocking. My other beta readers found this shocking. Several people responded (when I did a temperature check with them) by writing me lovely emails describing my character, the world, the temples, rooms… and they were all alike. That was good. Imagine if they were all drastically different!


Well, in an amazingly odd conversation after reading the rewritten version, my CP asks, “So did you move all that description to the next chapter?”


When I told her, no. I just added new description in the new version she was pretty shocked. She gave examples of what she thought I’d lose. Luckily, I knew where each of those descriptions were in the book and could point them out off the top of my head. That got us both to pondering what I HAD lost by rewriting chapter one….and the most shocking revelation of my (short) writing career. There was NO description in chapter one. Not. One. Thing…Oh, except for that lovely opening line that had to get tossed. We paged through together feeling a little shocked.


Then I hit chapter 2 and there it was. Description. Chapter 3…check. Chapter 4…yup. And so on.


I’ll admit, description…. not my favorite thing. I did have to go through and strengthen what was there in each chapter (and that darn chapter 1), but it was there.


I asked people what they liked to read and if it was in my book. To a person, if they liked something that was strongly shown in chapter one…they said it was in the whole book. If they liked something that didn’t come in until later, they said it was missing or light…even if it was strong later in the book (even if later = chapter 2)


It really drove home to me how important it is to really have a powerful, well fleshed out first chapter. The mind is a funny thing. We look for what we enjoy and we set up our total experience by the beginning. Just think of the last time you went out for a nice meal. How hard is it for the waitress to recover from a horrible start? Yeah, it’s hard (I’ve been a waitress working with a meanie hostess…tips were always lower when she worked the door)


So, what’s your first chapter lacking? I know mine won’t be lacking description – ever again.

2 Responses to “Readjusting”

  1. Celise June 1, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    You know what’s funny? I think I describe too much. I love writing description, which might actually drive my readers crazy. And you’re right: first chapters are WAY hard. At this point, I’m thinking my chapter might be too much of an info dump. It’s the first in a series and I think I provide TOO MUCH info in the first chapter. Book One is done, but I’m finding that I have to insert some sections (The Offer, The Psych Eval, and The Lesson) and make the ending more exciting. Gah!! That was from one beta reader. Which brings me to my questions for you:

    ~ How many beta readers do you have?

    ~ Are they in certain age groups?

    The one I have is outside the YA age group I write for (and knows nothing about the publishing world or has ever read YA books) and she’s been VERY helpful. But I’m thinking that I’d need to find a reader within the YA group. I registered over at Absolute Write, so I’m hoping to find some good readers over there. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. briaq June 2, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    I had three teens read it and got very positive reviews 🙂

    I have on CP and several betas — I’ll never be someone who can go beta-less. I need people to spot my errors I can’t see (dyslexic) and there’s a lot more of those after I edit (oddly enough. I can’t see where the changes start and drop words (not enough words) when mixing)

    I found my CP at a 10 day masters class. My betas were all from RWA or Romance Divas….the down side of that is they all expect romance…there are some non-romance stuff that goes down in my books 🙂

    But, definitely look at chapter one. I’ve been won over to one 🙂

    I’d pull a Margie Lawson on it. If you haven’t heard of her Deep EDITS class – she has this way of breaking out everything into description, action, etc that I’ll be using on chapter one again.

    It’s odd that it was the least balanced chapter in the entire book!

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