Have you heard that first chapters make difficult beasts? I had, and this one was. On the other hand, I found the first chapter of my second book (in progress) dead easy to write. Either I was misguided the first time round, or else a little experience goes a long way—or maybe I’ve forgotten the writing problems I used to believe I had.
For those keeping score at home:
- First chapter, first book = difficult.
- First chapter, second book = easy.
I wrote this story when I lived in Portugal. Each day I walked to the library in the park with the ruins and the peacocks and sat opposite the painting of Pessoa and wrote. If the weather was warm, I sat on the stone bench above the stepped hillside, the one with the long view out to the ocean. I probably wrote this chapter in both these places and all kinds of weather, because it didn’t work for the longest time.
One remnant of this rewriting is Ming Zhao’s indeterminate age, a typical example of the author smudging the facts to avoid responsibility. I remember originally picturing him as an older person before deciding he should be a child. Considering the amount of exposition I know he gets, I should remedy this (and remember not to smudge so much in the future).
As I recall, the plot actually started somewhere else before I tore it out and rebuilt it. Later I shifted everything forward again, shifted gears and sped things up. If I rewrote this for the umpteenth time, I would probably increase the lazy pace again, although I’m not sure I could without writing a different book.
And then a reader writes:
I enjoyed seeing the opening scenes of this chapter untangle themselves from a dense thicket of ideas into a lovely opening passage. The first chapter really sets the tone and pace and is where the reader is welcomed to the book. It has to contain elements of introduction along with hints of what will be experienced later in the text.
I don’t think the pacing in this story will ever be anything less than a challenge for me.
To do list
- Firm up Zhao’s age
- Change the pace?
- Edit Harold’s dialogue after considering Chapter Two