Killing Chapter 1

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My decision to cut the entire first chapter for The Muse came when I realized I had started my novel with just about every single thing most agents hate to see in an opening chapter.

After reading multiple articles and longs lists of tweets from agents, a definitive list of things agents hate in an opening chapter began to emerge:

  • Too much backstory
  • Describing the weather
  • Describing the sky
  • Main character waking up
  • Prologues

It’s funny how you think you are not doing these things as you write, re-write, and edit. Even after multiple rejections, I still believed I had a strong opening. However, once I compared the list to my novel, I realized I had committed every novel sin except for the prologue.

Then, I visited the YA section of my bookshelf and started scanning through all the first chapters of my favorite books. Keeping the list in mind, it was easy to see what they were doing right and what I was doing wrong. A change needed to be made and it needed to be big.

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I pulled up my manuscript on my Kindle Fire and read the first chapter multiple times. The biggest issues were backstory and weather description. Luckily, the solution for backstory was easy. I could track each segment of backstory to another section of the novel, so I truly did not need it in the first chapter. As for weather description, the foreshadowing was nice, but not entirely necessary. With these two elements eliminated, there wasn’t much left of Chapter 1. Hmmmm . . . that got me thinking,  why don’t I just delete the whole thing?

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as just hitting the delete button. When I scrolled down into Chapter 2, it was promising in that as the new start, the reader is dropped right into the story. However, Chapter 2 begins with the main character waking up. Ahhhh! Another thing on the hate list. Two paragraphs down, a sky description shows up! Yet, another thing on the hate list!

Before total panic set in, it became clear that both issues can be easily fixed. A sentence here and a slight deletion there should clear up the hate list issues, while also transitioning Chapter 2 as the new beginning to The Muse.

I guess we’ll see how it goes!

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: April Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

This was an interesting month for The Muse. I started April by organizing query packages. I was ready to hit send on all of them, when I realized something had to change. After three months of sending queries I’m getting responses, but they are all rejections. While getting a response of any kind is great, I’m not getting the “yes” I need.

After some thought I think I figured out what’s happening. The fact that I’m getting responses tells me I’ve got a good query letter. That means the rejection factor is coming from my sample pages, which is usually the first five chapters.

I sat down and read the first five chapters at least 10 times before I had a major epiphany. In an instant, I knew what was wrong. Funny how that happens! I wrote to my editor and asked her what she thought about my epiphany and she agreed I was on to something.

What it all comes down to is cutting Chapter 1 entirely. When I really thought about it I realized everything in Chapter 1 is addressed in later early chapters. So why am I clogging the beginning of the story with what is essentially back story? The story has its true start in Chapter 2, so it makes sense to push it up to the beginning.

I may not have sent out a query package this month, but I am working hard on adjusting my manuscript for the next round of queries.

2. Start writing Lineage.

On the shelf at the moment, as per my plan!

3. Submit poetry.

With April being National Poetry Month, I found it easy to focus on this goal! I participated in two poetry challenges:

Over on the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest, the annual April  Poem A Day Challenge commenced. This challenge is also a competition that will culminate in a published poetry anthology. Each day there was a prompt, a guest judge, and over 1,000 posted poems. It was an incredible experience! I managed to post haikus every day (in total, I wrote 88 haikus) and I met some amazing poets along the way.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. While February is the official haiku writing month, the organization offers up daily haiku writing prompts every month. I ended up writing 61 haikus during the the month of April

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

As the school year is starting to draw to a close, this goal is getting a little harder, but I think writing 149 haikus qualifies as staying focused! :-)

5. Be flexible.

Who would have thought I’d cut Chapter 1?! I’m still in shock I made this decision, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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p.s. Happy Star Wars Day!!!

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c.b.w. 2015

National Poetry Month!

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April is officially National Poetry Month, which means I can geek out on poetry with some good company. While every month is poetry month to me, it is really exciting to see a large community of poets come together to encourage the writing and reading of poetry.

Poets approach this event in a number of different ways. Some write a poem a day, while others interact on social media. Educators emphasize poetry in their classrooms and writers promote their work at National Poetry Month events. No matter the activity, April is all about ensuring poetry continues to prosper as an art form.

I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by participating in two poetry challenges:

2015 April Poem A Day (PAD) Challenge on Poetic Asides (via Writer’s Digest)

This challenge is also a competition. Each day a prompt is posted and poets are invited to post their poems in the comments. A judge then selects one poem, which will be published in an anthology at the end of the competition. I participated in this challenge last year and really enjoyed the process. The community is so encouraging and inspiring.

My goal for this challenge is to continue my practice of haiku. I’m focusing on contemporary haiku which breaks the 5-7-5 syllable rule. The simplicity of contemporary haiku is very appealing to me, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with line and syllable counts.

NaHaiWriMo’s April 2015 Daily Writing Prompts

NaHaiWriMo (National Haiku Writing Month) is officially in February, but the organization offers daily prompts for every month. I had so much fun in February, I continued through March. The thought of missing a day was so sad, I decided to keep going through April.

My goal for this challenge is the same as the April PAD challenge, but I’m leaving the door open for the traditional 5-7-5 haiku and senryu. Seeing as there is no requirement to post, my journal will be full of little experiments.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, I hope you join the fun and celebrate National Poetry Month!

 

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: February Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

After spending a few weeks researching prospective agents, I finally got brave enough to send out two query packages. This is the first round of queries I’ve sent out since hiring an editor for my manuscript. It’s also the first run of a revised query letter.

I wish I could say all the revisions paid off instantly, but nothing involved with writing is instant! I’ve already received a rejection letter, which was actually very polite and even nice! While rejection sucks, receiving any sort of response is a win. This one in particular didn’t leave me feeling like a failure because it told me to keep trying, (this agent just didn’t feel like the right fit for my work).

While I wait for the second agency to respond, I’m busy working on the next round of queries I’ll be sending out in March.

2. Start writing Lineage.

On the shelf at the moment, as per my plan!

3. Submit poetry.

February turned out to be a pretty great month for poetry!

Back in January I submitted three haikus to local haiku competition and they ended up getting ranked as Outstanding (a status given to only 45 out of more than 600 entries). My haikus were put on display at a cultural festival and were also published in an ebook. All the details can be found in my recent post, A Haiku Victory!

In other haiku news, I quietly completed National Haiku Writing Month via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. The daily prompts were incredibly challenging (for example, the word “nuclear” was a prompt), but I loved every minute of it. I ended up writing more than 50 haikus by month’s end. Stay tuned as I’ll be posting selections soon.

In addition to NaHaiWriMo, I continued my involvement in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. I didn’t miss a single Wednesday Poetry Prompt.

As for my black out poetry submission, I’m still waiting on the results to this challenge: WD Poetic Forms Challenge: Erasure Poetry. Regardless of how this one turns out, I’m still very inspired by this form. A new collection is already in the works!

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

When it came to poetry and queries, I’d say I was pretty darn focused this month!

5. Be flexible.

As always, I’m staying open to opportunities and inspiration wherever they may be hiding.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015