Jennifer's struggling with her first chapter...
My WIP has a horrible first chapter. Actually, I’m hoping to improve it so that it’s only horrible. Because then maybe at that point, I can fix it so that it’s actually readable.
You know the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen”? Well, I think that might apply to having too many people look at it and give me feedback. Now, before you think I’m trashing anyone but me, believe me, I’m not. In order for it to get to it’s beyond-horrible status, I had to write a pretty bad first chapter.
Actually, I love where I started the story originally. Unfortunately, no one else, including a panel of editors and agents who read it anonymously at a conference and then gave their feedback to the crowd, did. So I changed it. My two critique partners liked it better, and gave their feedback and I changed it again. Then I joined a critique group and the three writers tore it apart. So I listened to them too.
And I ended up with mush.
First chapters are notoriously difficult to write because it’s where you start writing your book, but it’s not necessarily where you should actually start your story. Usually, first chapters require a lot of rewriting and reworking, quite often after you’ve written the rest of the book.
So I’m going to rewrite it.
This past weekend when I was at my writer’s conference, I was very excited to attend a workshop on improving your first chapter. Donna MacMeans gave lots of great ideas, but one of the things I liked the most was her insistence on a “rooting interest.”
Rooting interests are traits that get the reader to “root” for the characters. She analyzed a large number of romances and all the best sellers included rooting interests on every page in the first chapter and then throughout the rest of the book. She broke down rooting interests into three categories: empathy, admiration and humanistic traits.
Her theory is that we care about characters we feel sorry for, we like characters with humanistic traits and we like to admire our characters as well. With a variety of these three types of rooting interests, you can draw readers into your book and make them not want to put it down until the end.
There are many other things a first chapter needs, and I’m going to have to work on all of them. But it’s a start. And once I have it written down, I’ll send it around to all of my critique partners, because, honestly, I really value their opinions. But hopefully, not only will what I write be good, but I’ll be a little better at figuring out what to listen to and what to ignore.