Crazy as it may seem, I don’t worry about the first three chapters. Wait, I take that back. I do worry. I worry about them a lot. But at the same time, I’m not too worried about them.
See, the thing is, and I hope Jaye is reading this…
I almost never keep the first draft of my first three chapters.
“What?” you cry. “How is that possible? They are the foundations to your plot! They set up everything that will come, and has most recently been, in your work!”
And that is an excellent and valid point. To which I respond, “Yes, but since you wrote them first, most likely, I bet they’re a pretty bad example of your writing style, in comparison to later chapters.”
Your later chapters are almost always better, at least in terms of the first draft, because you…
- Know your characters better
- Know your plot better
- Know the overall purpose of your work better (a.k.a. theme or thesis)
So what do I do? I force myself to move past chapters one through three. When writing a first draft, or even a second draft, I focus on the end goals: Can I finish this work? Will it accomplish the themes, plot twists, emotions, and subtle messages I’m trying to impart?
What I really obsess about is the ending. It is the ending, I feel, that defines the beginning. To me, the ending is that sometime-heartbreaking goodbye to a friend. And when we say goodbye to someone, what is one of the first things we start to do? Reminisce about how that friendship began. We want to remember where we came from. That is how I know where my beginning should start. I need to know the ending before I can really understand and write the beginning.
Perhaps that doesn’t make any sense. So here is something else that you should always do with your beginning: Start with action. In fact, you should always…
Start with the action that jumpstarts all the other actions in your work.
This typically means meeting the hero for our heroine in romance. Or our detective finding our murder victim in a mystery. Or something catastrophic that will end the world as we know it in a science fiction.
So once you’ve finished writing the ending, go back to the beginning. Does the beginning make sense, in terms of the ending? Does the ending correlate/follow from the beginning? If not, you need to rewrite those first three chapters.
Does this help? Have I made any sense at all? I wrote this post in reponse to a question Jaye had about his first three chapters, both how to do them, and how to get past them. So if you have suggestions for Jaye, let us know in the comments.