I have finished rewriting the first chapter. Everyone knows how important the first chapter is. You can never be critical enough when reviewing it – and never work hard enough to make it shine.
Don’t tell anyone:
I tore apart the first chapter
I have ripped it up completely, deleted hundreds of words, rearranged most of the paragraphs and written two completely new scenes.
The previous version started by showing how a determined Lady Linfield meets her sister and sets out her plan for saving the reputation of the family. Her sister, though, is not happy with Lady Linfield ordering everyone about (see also the enlightening interview with Lady Armsworth).
Can we look forward to a great scene with half-hidden resentment and conflict? The basis is definitely there, but there are certain conventions for an opening scene of a Regency novel: not to leave the reader completely in the dark about characters and circumstances.
Since the opening scene of my old draft was triggered by earlier events, the first chapter had to include some background information. In this case, the reader needs to know:
- What is the underlying problem that Lady Linfield wants to solve?
- Who are the involved characters?
- How does the conduct of one of the main characters over the past years affect the current situation?
The need to include this information resulted in a series of flashbacks during the dialogue between the two sisters. These flashbacks were not in chronological order. Inner monologue interrupted the dialogue, and a number of living and dead people was mentioned. In short: After a thorough analysis, extensive note-taking and mapping up a couple of diagrams, anyone could have understood the background story easily. But the average reader will lack the patience. Some relentless redrafting was due.
What’s changed in the new version of the first chapter?
I have inserted two completely new scenes in which several major characters appear. Shocking news is disclosed during that scene, and everyone has to decide immediately which position to take. They are not destined to agree with each other. After this new scene, a fresh version without flashbacks of the first chapter follows.
What has been achieved by the redrafting?
- Events are told in chronological order.
- People are introduced one by one.
- The chapter comprises an arc of suspense.
- The narrative pace was sped up, and there is a lot more action.
Can my characters relax and resume their daily routine in the second chapter? I don’t think so.
Read more about chapter 2 here.