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
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.
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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