The first chapter of a book is the most important chapter. If you don’t catch the reader right away, there is no second chance, they are gone, even if the rest of the book is the greatest book that has ever been written. A lot rides on that opening statement. Unfortunately, sometimes we can be intimidated by how much weight there is on it.
When I started writing The Fireborn, I wrote a few chapters in the middle and then continued by doing a quick outline to connect them. I wasn’t planning on actually writing at the time, I wanted to plan and outline, but I had these ideas and I had to put them on “paper” just as they were in my head so I wouldn’t lose them. The problem was, as I tried to outline the blanks between the chapters, I did it by writing new chapters. Sigh. So I finally gave up, and decided to start from the beginning.
Since I knew the importance of the first chapter, I decided to write a placeholder. That freed me up and I just started writing at the beginning and didn’t stop (except to insert the aforementioned previously written chapters) until I wrote “The End” two and half months later.
When I finished, I went back to rewrite the first chapter. But I couldn’t. Every time I’ve sat down to revise, which I have done many times with this book, taking a 50K word first draft to 83K (and that is even after deleting entire scenes and chapters), I haven’t been able to do much to change that first chapter.
In this first chapter I gave a good introduction to the main character. I brought up some of his good points and bad. Reading it, you find out a lot about him. Of course not everything – that’s what the rest of the book is about! I introduced another key player, his brother. The sibling rivalry and overbearing father were hinted at. The villain is brought up (!) even though you don’t meet the villain until one of the very last chapters. A lot of the import history was given. The book would work without this chapter, but it would be missing a lot. A huge amount of information is there.
The problem is, this book has too many places where one character fills in some back story for another. It isn’t terrible, like in some books that I’ve read, and the backstory, and how it changes, is a big part of the book – the past and present are intertwined and when one changes, the other changes as well (yes, the past changes to match the present – read the book ;)). The history is for the most part given by the main character and so there is that coloring – as he builds the story, the story builds his character. So I didn’t want a first chapter that is based on a couple of middle aged men standing in a field telling each other stories! I mean, there is more to the chapter than that, of course, but a lot of it is just guys talking.
I’ve banged my head against the wall, yet I haven’t figured out a way to get this information out in a way that works any better. The times I’ve tried, I hated what I did. I like this chapter, but I’m too close to know if it is actually a good opener or not.
So, here is where you come in – I’m going to post the first chapter sometime in the next couple of days. I would like everyone to let me know what they think – if given this first chapter on Amazon, would they want to continue or would they say, “how boring”. The story is not boring… I just posted it here!