Friday, December 09, 2005

Reorganizing the Front Room

I have this problem in that I like to dump a lot of backstory into the first chapter of my story. It tends to be more of a problem with novel length, I guess, because with a novella, such as Nights in White Satin, or my first erotic short story, Esmerelda's Secret, I know I only have so much "story space" to work with. (As a matter of fact, I ended up cutting five pages from Esmerelda's Secret to come in under the word count.)

Writing as Tess Maynard I had this happen with She Moves Through the Faire. I was lucky enough to find a small critique group and with wonderful diplomacy, they led me down the path to realizing I needed to cut ten pages from the first chapter. They didn't actually come straight out and tell me to cut it, but made subtle comments, making me discover for myself what I needed to do. And it worked.

So I've had another story setting on the floor of my office for ages. It's done, but there were some issues I needed to sort out with it. Like the first chapter. I kept reading it over and over and couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to do with it.

Then the other day I read a short article on scriptwriting and it talked about reworking scenes by cutting them apart and seeing how they might fit together differently to give more impact and cutting out the dross.

Talk about seeing the light. (Sometimes it takes me a while, but eventually I get there.) So I sat down and printed out two copies of that first chapter and began cutting apart paragraphs. I pulled out one of my whiteboards (purchased for about five dollars at Home Depot), and using the back of it, I started reworking the paragraphs. Did I come out with a stronger first chapter? Yes, I did--at least I think so. Did I end up losing a few pages--only about a page and a half.

Now, I have another story I did the same thing with, and I can't wait to tear that little devil apart.

The front room--or first chapter--is the first thing anyone sees when they walk in the door. The impact it makes can make or break the impression of the "visitor." If I can't hold their attention for those important first twenty pages (let alone grab it with the first sentence), my story is going to be in trouble.

We had an interesting first line challenge on the Amber Heat Reader's List recently instigated by Brit Blaise. Have you read her Cave Creek Cowboys series? It was a great reminder about the first line and how it intrigues the reader to want to read more.

Sometimes I hit the mark, sometimes I don't, I guess. But I did always like paperdolls when I was a kid, guess this new editing process just gives me a chance to translate that into an adult process. Well...sort of adult...



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