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.