Starting the next book

I’ve handed off edits for Assassin’s Gambit and started work on book two. As it happens, book two was already written but needed a major rewrite for a couple of reasons. One, I wrote it as a fantasy novel with romance elements, and it needs to be a fantasy romance (there’s a difference). And two, I’ve identified some structural problems with it that a careful rewrite will eliminate.

The first third of the book has to be thrown out entirely, so I found myself writing chapter one from scratch.

I’m one of those writers who writes chapter one over and over and over again. I write a scene, then tweak it a bit, then throw it out entirely and rewrite it, then throw that out and rewrite it again. This process can go on for several weeks until I’m satisfied. Once chapter one is solid, I’ll fast-draft and write the entire novel without looking back.

Writers are often advised not to obsess over their opening chapter. Just move on, they’re told. Finish the novel, and then you’ll know better how to open the novel. Odds are you’re going to cut those opening scenes anyway and open somewhere else.

For many writers, this is good advice. I have given this advice myself, on many occasions. But it is the wrong advice for this particular writer! I don’t rewrite my opening chapter over and over because I don’t know where to start my novel. I usually know exactly where to start. What I’m struggling with is my premise and my character motivations.

If I write the heroine’s opening scene, and her motivation doesn’t feel quite right, I have to stop and fix it. I can’t go on and write the rest of the novel, because the heroine’s motivation is the foundation for the entire novel. Everything will be wrong if I don’t get that right. Same with the hero’s motivation, and same with the premise.

But once I’ve got those three key elements right, I can fast-draft the remaining 90000 words, because the writing will come easily. Clear motivations and a solid premise mean easy writing, the novel that “writes itself.” Okay, it’s never really that easy. But there’s nothing harder than trying to force tension and motivation into a scene when it isn’t there naturally. If I lay that groundwork in chapter one, the tension will be there and I won’t find myself struggling to crowbar it in.

This entry was posted in Assassin's Gambit, Fantasy, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Starting the next book

  1. Amy, you sound much like me. I rewrite the beginning over and over until it feels right. Usually, this means nailing character motivation and identifying which plot arc to hang the rest of the story on. In my current WIP, so far, I’ve rewritten and revised chapter 1 about 10 times, chapter 30, by contrast, only 3. I’ve got more work to do, of course, but there certainly is a disparity. I’ve tried just writing through, but I find I end up tossing too much to make it worth it, and I have this constant feeling like I’m going down the wrong path

    In any case, good luck with this new book. I can’t wait to read your work!

    • Amy Raby says:

      Thanks! Normally it’s not something I recommend, because a lot of writers need to write straight through, and when they’re done, then they’ll know how to start their story. And I used to be this kind of writer. But I’m not anymore, and it sounds like you’re not either. I can write that way, but I’ll waste a lot of time. Much better I get the opening right, and then my fast-draft will be much closer to accurate on the first try.

  2. Jessi Gage says:

    Amy says: I can’t go on and write the rest of the novel, because the heroine’s motivation is the foundation for the entire novel. Everything will be wrong if I don’t get that right.
    I feel the same way. I can’t get excited about a story and do it justice in a first draft without a solid foundation of GMC, which should be included in chap 1, even if one component is just foreshadowed.

    But like you and Laura, once I get a solid start to my story (usually for me 3 chapters or so), I can write quickly after that (until I hit the inevitable snags that come from my poor. But those early chapters get rewritten a lot. I wonder how common that is? For me, I think it’s a big time-saver in the long-run, but I guess it could potentially bog a writer down. Maybe some writers need momentum…

    • Amy Raby says:

      I think beginning writers tend to get bogged down if they rewrite the opening chapter over and over again, because the skill they really need to practice is “how to finish a novel.”

      But writers like you and me and Laura have got the finishing thing down. The question for us is, what’s the most efficient way to get the novel written? And I find that I do less rewriting if I lay down my GMC correctly in chapter 1, even if I have to rewrite chapter 1 a half dozen times before I’ve got it just right. Sounds like you’re in the same place.

  3. Jill Archer says:

    Hi Amy– I enjoyed reading this. It’s always neat to hear how other writers approach things. Hope your week was happy and productive!

  4. Hi Amy, glad to hear SSV will see the light of day (It was my fav. Nothing against Gambit, and I realize Gambit was the more professional of the two…but I loved Soldier.) Anyway, I’m still learning my craft, but have found it is a lot less work in the long run if I can get the story correct from the beginning. LOL. Honestly, I’m not sure how many times I’ve rewritten the first chapter(s).

    Happy writing and bye for now,

    Lisa

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