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Getting past the first chapter...
Tabetha Waite
Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2011 6:33 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


It seems that once I get a story going, I have tons of ideas of where to take it. The main problem I have faced is writing the perfect sentence to hook the reader right off the bat that makes them want to read more. I think it's important to develop the character, but how much is too much background history or scene development?? 
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:07 PM
• It seems that once I get a story going, I have tons of ideas of where to take it.

A good rule of thumb: Know your destination before you begin the journey. If you’re knowledgeable in the techniques of the professional fiction writer you can begin your story and simply place two characters who will work at cross purposes in a crucible, to see what happens. But in general, it’s best to at least know the source of conflict, the
personalities and motivations, and the desired destination.

• The main problem I have faced is writing the perfect sentence
to hook the reader right off the bat that makes them want to read
more

Every single sentence should be doing that. The reader is with you for the moment-to-moment writing pleasure, not a hook followed by a history lesson. Better to let them experience than be told. You want to make the reader feel as if the character is their avatar, and that the story is happening to them in parallel to the character.

• I think it's important to develop the character, but how much is too much background history or scene development??

Every line should develop character, set the scene, or move the plot. Hopefully, more then one of them at a time—especially setting and character development. Scene setting is best given as part as part of a necessary line. Better, for example, to have the character put on a pullover and then free their hair from the collar than telling the reader s/he has long hair. And for nearly every single line, if I were to point to it, you should be able to show me something in what went before that necessitated it being there—an antecedent, of sorts. If you can’t, it comes from the narrator, and you’re not in the story, so authorial intrusions are best kept kept to a minimum.

The key is to ask yourself if you’re telling the story, in the words you would use were we together, or if you’re making the reader experience the events.

Remember the times you shouted at a character in a book, or on the screen, because you were so involved in the scene? That’s the goal, to have the words vanish and the story play in the reader’s mind, as real as were they
experiencing it. And that’s a learned skill.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Sunday, November 27, 2011 12:50 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I agree with Jay, but I have some other advice to add to his.

You are really focused on getting the first chapter perfect, then you get stuck. This is what I say to that: just write! Don't worry about how perfect everything is at first. Sit down and just write out the story to see where you're going. You never know,  you may not like how your first chapter went and want to change it. My point is that writing is like meditation. (It produces the same brain waves too!) By thinking too much you hit snags and walls, the progress you are making halts. Develop a flow and your ideas will fall into place. If the sentences are awful, that is what editing is for. I rewrote my whole prologue and first chapter of my first book to hook people after I knew where it was going. (My success is another matter. I'm thinking of rewriting again.)

Another tip is to make an outline. You don't have to follow to a fault. Feel free to digress if another action for your character seems better, or you have a better idea in general.

As for character development, let their actions and thoughts do the talking. Sure, you want the person to be involved as soon as possible, but don't infodump. This can push a reader away who wants to see action. Same for scene development. Show through action. If a character is a slob, and their apartment looks like a tornado blew through it, have them shuffle over papers and sniff a t-shirt or two before drinking out of a week old coffee mug filled with last night's beer.

Seriously, just write, stop thinking. If  you don't make progress by next year, sign up for NaNoWriMo. I wanna see word count, writer! Do you hear me!
Marcie
Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 1:00 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103


I'm with LeeAnna on this. Wrap your head around the story and characters first, get some word count behind you, then go back and make it sparkle.

Once you get to the 50,000 word mark, the choices of what to include/exclude where will become obvious.


Charl F king
Posted: Sunday, December 4, 2011 4:58 AM
Joined: 11/20/2011
Posts: 24


I agree with LeeAnne and Marcia. get the story written then refine. Having said that, a publisher once gave me this advice. It's a template for first lines, a hook.
The captain stood on the deck of his ship, in torpid heat, slowly whipping his wife. A few things happen here, first it sets a scene and possibly era. Then it gives one climate. Finally, who wouldn't want to read on and know why the captain is whipping his wife and why slowly. I have since used this as a guide to authors I edit for. I also love writing first chapters. They inevitably get rewriten a hundred times over.
Tabetha Waite
Posted: Monday, December 5, 2011 3:59 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 22


There are so many good ideas here and I thank you all for posting! I know writing can be a tough job. It seems when you get caught up in the 'act' of writing, you forget how to just allow your imagination to make the journey for you. Either way, I have to say that there's nothing like seeing your characters come to life!
 

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