Wow! It feels nice to play author again for a bit. For those perhaps on the other side of the planet, or at least not in my section of New York, I held a museum exhibit opening and turned in my honors capstone thesis on a more inclusive museum (titled Demolishing the Temple, Raised Voices in the Palace:
An Art Museum Whose Door is Open to Everyone). On top of those, I recently said temporary good-byes to people who live several hours away but had recently only lived a bedroom door away. I graduated with a degree in Art History and will travel to University College London in September for a whole year to get my Master's in Museum Studies--and there's an entire summer of bookstore employment and adventures in between. The world is a little bittersweet and entirely exciting, so it's wonderful to remember that I am also a writer.
So, in the spirit of my awesome friend who wore a jump rope as a cord to graduation because she was "jumping into her new life", it's time to talk about new chapters; about first chapters.
Suggested by Skye: Has so much emphasis been placed by other writers advice, publishers, reviewers, etc. on authors to have a spectacular opening page/1st chapter that the rest of the story sometimes gets left behind? What are your thoughts and experiences with this?
As a withered veteran who started writing perhaps earlier than was wise, I sort of turn a deaf ear to this advice now. I remember being 14 or so and having a teacher stress the idea of Chapter One being a knockout. It had to hook the reader from word #1! It had to make them cry, and scream, and howl with laughter! Except...no, it doesn't. Like the pilot of a tv show, I think people give chapter one some slack now. Most book readers understand that some assembly is required to get the story going. You can't launch a rocket into space without performing tests and fueling up.
This is not to say that you shouldn't attempt to make your book start exciting. Who wants to continue reading a book if nothing is happening? I simply stress that you don't try to sensationalize at the cost of your plot. I almost did that a few times--introduce a scene that is ultra-exciting but basically has no connection to the rest of the book.
Here is the opening paragraph of Monet Evanesce, a novel signed by MuseItUp Publishing that is set to publish sometime this year or next:
On April 26, 1894, the fog hung yellow and Jos stumbled upon a painter singing in a ditch. It was only sort of a ditch, more of an indentation in the recently constructed street and even less than half a song, more of just a drunken slur of grumblings.
It fails to blow you away, I'm sure. But it doesn't utterly destroy your interest, either. I introduce a slow sort of excitement, especially when the readers discover Jos is wearing an outfit stolen from an artist's son, and that the man in the ditch is a famous member of the Impressionist art movement--and a forger.
The closest I get to an action-packed beginning is with Shubiao's Girls, a paranormal novel that has undergone two rounds of edits with MuseItUp:
The cheap alarm clock screeched like a 9.5 earthquake was imminent.
I really have to get up. Cara should shut off the possessed thing, or at least punch Snooze, but a wave of grogginess hit her and her arms remained curled underneath the pillow. It always took all she had to get out of bed. Not because she was depressed or anything. Cara just didn’t rise out of sleep gracefully like other people did. She emerged like a drugged person after twenty minutes of her hearing-damaging alarm. And now, on her own, there was no mom to storm in and drag her out of bed. But today…
I have a presentation. Cara’s inner-mind voice held a strange note of panic and she cracked open an eye. The poster boards and notecards waited on the floor beside her bed, but that wasn’t the problem. Cara still lay in bed, perfectly relaxed. Her alarm clock continued to scream.
“Oh my god.” Cara drew out the word. She braced herself against the mattress to fling herself out. Dizziness hit her. The sheets weighed her down until her arms trembled.
No, stay. Sleep.
The soft, supplicating whisper hadn’t been one of her thoughts. It’d whispered up from her mattress.
Cara stared down at her rainbow coverlet. I didn’t even go out drinking last night.
Grogginess pulled on her lids. Cara lowered herself down to her elbows and nuzzled the pillow.
You’re tired. Sleep.
The voice whispered at her face this time, like someone was inside her pillow.
Cara screamed, jerking upward. She swung her legs out but they tangled in the sheets.
As you can probably guess, there is some more freaking out involved, and the story is underway. What about you? Do you think first chapters really need to wow the crowd, or do you allow some patience for the author to help you find your footing?
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-YV
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com