May 19, 2010 | By: Tracy


Before I get into things -- I wanted to thank you all for your suggestions on books to check out on my Nook!! I've already added a couple to my "wish list" and I'll be checking more out before I leave next weekend.

Okay, now on to this post . . . 

I received two more query rejections this week, which brings my overall tally to:

Queries Sent: 12
Rejections: 9
Still Pending: 3
Partials Requested: 1
Partials Rejected: 1
Fulls Requested: 0
Fulls Rejected: 0

Given that I'm what I like to call a Tweaker, I've been taking a look at both my query and first chapter. I'm not talking a complete overhaul, but looking for ways to brighten. I think my query is tight, but it might be a little too straight forward and missing a bit of the ever-talked-about VOICE.

The overwriting comes in on the first chapter. It's the only part of my story that I'm not 100% happy with.

For the most part I love my story, and I've read the thing from end to end more than a dozen times over (yeah, shocks me too). The story starts where it's supposed to, and it has all the information I need to move the plot forward . . . but there's something about Chapter 1 that doesn't feel quite right to me.

I'm starting to believe what's wrong with it is that it is OVERWRITTEN.

So much emphasis is placed on how important our first chapter --  page --  paragraph -- line -- is to capturing the reader/agent's attention that we sometimes have a tendency to overwrite the damn beginnings in an attempt to make them spectacularly interesting. The problem with this is that it comes off as sounding too much like someone begging to get your attention . . . and it can be about as charming as the guy at the party who doesn't seem to understand what "not interested" means.

Now, I don't think my first chapter is guilty of gross overwriting, but I'm starting to think that I was trying to be too coy or intriguing while writing (or re-writing it). So now I've identified the problem, but can I fix it?

Anyone have any tips, tricks or thoughts for how to write the ever-elusive first chapter that sings, without crossing into overwriting? Anyone find themselves in the same situation? 

8 witty remarks:

Terry Towery said...

Well, as you probably know, I've been knee-deep in the same dilemma. My problem wasn't that the beginning was over-written, but that it took too long to get to the action. I've spent the last two days COMPLETELY re-doing the first 150 pages of the novel.

It wasn't as painful as I had feared, but it's not been easy. I've also killed almost 10k words from the manuscript in the process, simply by cutting every scene that doesn't move the plot forward --no matter how much I love it or the writing.

Go for it, Tracy. Copy and past the first chapter into a new file, then go in and COMPLETELY re-write it. And by that, I mean start over. New beginning paragraph, everything. Just follow your gut. You know much more about your story and your characters now than you did when you started.

You might be stunned at how much better it is. And if it isn't, you can always put the old chapter back, fully intact.

Good luck!

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

honey, darling, love, pet ... ;) Send it to me to take a look (if you like, of course) xx

JustineDell said...

First, I totally miss your daily post.

Second, I remember Jaimie telling me that your story is so wonderful she couldn't put it down, so I'm sure it's great.

Third, I'm wordy, so I'm afraid I can offer no advice *super sad face*

Good luck!


Mary McDonald said...

Wish I had some magical suggestion, but my own first chapter has been totally re-written at least ten times. I think I have it right finally, but I could get feedback to make me change my mind.

Are you sure your's is overwritten or does it just seem that way to you because you are so familiar with it?

Shannon said...

Hi Tracy,

I agree with Terry and Mary. I, too, did a complete rewrite (3 times!) and now I love the first chapter. From the first to the final, everything is different. Can't hurt to try.

Also, I'd take Jessica up on her offer. :)


Matthew Rush said...

I have similar problems. I've re-written that first part over and over and over, and it is really important to get it right.

Remember though, many different things can work, so just make sure you love it.

Having other writers (Jessica) take a look can't hurt either.

Shelley Sly said...

I agree with the others, that a second person's eyes on the manuscript can really make a difference. I only recently began exchanging with beta readers, and they pick up SO much stuff that I've never noticed before.

As for that first chapter, I've rewritten my first chapter of my MS over five times, and it's still not right. I believe that we write the beginning of our novel more than we work on anything else.

Best of luck with it!

Nishant said...

it took too long to get to the action. I've spent the last two days COMPLETELY re-doing the first 150 pages of the novel.
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