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#1 of 13 Old 09-11-2009, 11:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, so I thought that being elusive was part of what went on it a chapter one: to paint a picture with foreshadowing without giving away what actually happened...But after having my critique group critique it...they said that the chapter could just be tossed out entirely because it doesn't DO what a chapter one should do...like say what the protagonists problem is, what's keeping her from getting it, and other things that I kind of zoned out because (honestly) I didn't think my chapter was really that bad for all the markups they gave me!

I didn't cry, so that's a major step in the right direction for me

But really, what should go in a first chapter? Do I touch on EVERYTHING that has happened to my MC that has gotten her into this horrible place? Or leave a few things for latter...they say I'm too elusive and oblique that the reader is left wondering about too many things.

I think I got so cocky with actually writing the whole novel that I didn't think it would suck! No really, it doesn't suck, there are some really good parts...I just have a lot to redo to make it kick butt awesome...

I'd love to have someone from here read my first chapter if they wanted to. The group is mainly men, so maybe they just don't like women's fiction/chiclit...?

confused...

Lia Mack
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#2 of 13 Old 09-12-2009, 03:12 AM
 
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Hee, I'm entertained that you are getting a bunch of guys to read chicklit.

I think it depends on your critiquers, but if they're experienced enough they probably should be able to judge whether the first chapter "works" or not regardless of how much chicklit/women's fic they read.

Here's my take on what a first chapter in a novel should accomplish:

1. Introduce a character, usually your main character/POV, who will be central to the story. You don't need to go into more depth than necessary to create a character who catches the reader's attention and with whom the reader can sympathize with... or at least be interested in.

2. Present specific details that anchor the reader in a place and time and establish the tone of the story. Avoid including too much unnecessary information or excessive backstory, which will bog the reader down with details she doesn't yet need.

3. Give the reader a glimpse of how things were going before the events of the novel take place. Ground the reader just well enough that she can understand how monumental the events you'll be writing about are for your character(s).

4. Set the story in motion by introducing a conflict and/or change to the status quo. Something needs to happen.


I don't think I'd touch on everything that's caused your MC to get into her horrible place. Maybe pick one or two specific incidents that are directly relevant to her state of mind at the beginning to mention? I usually save the big background dump session for later, after I've established the conflict or change... I think in the novel I'm working on now you don't really get details about my protagonist's background or find out how he gain his position and skills (his basic job description at the beginning is "evil henchman") until chapter 3. Up until then he's busy dealing with the situation at hand and doesn't have time to sit around reminiscing about much of anything.

Did your group give you some ideas about what specifics they were left wondering about?

Erin, mom to DD (1/06) and DS (10/09)
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#3 of 13 Old 09-12-2009, 11:52 AM
 
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3. Give the reader a glimpse of how things were going before the events of the novel take place. Ground the reader just well enough that she can understand how monumental the events you'll be writing about are for your character(s).

4. Set the story in motion by introducing a conflict and/or change to the status quo. Something needs to happen.


I don't think I'd touch on everything that's caused your MC to get into her horrible place. Maybe pick one or two specific incidents that are directly relevant to her state of mind at the beginning to mention?
What usually connects me to the MC in a character-driven novel is experiencing some big event with her from the get-go. I've seen it recommended that readers be thrust into the action of that big problem or joyous moment in the first five pages of a book. (which is also what many agents want to read when you query, and what many people preview when browsing a bookstore, so I'm betting that is a great deal of the reason for that recommendation lol)

Can you start your novel with your MC in the throes of the last event in the series of things that set her onto the path you'll be taking her on in your book? The event that sent her over the edge, saying "OK that's it!" can be the same event that makes your readers say "Oh no! What happened?" It doesn't have to be the big life altering event.

Tug at the readers' heartstrings. Give them a reason to root for her.




My grammar is pretty poor this morning. I'm in desperate need of coffee. Hopefully I was a bit of a help, anyway.

Wife of 1. Mom of 3. Conquering disability challenges, one achievement at a time.
 

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#4 of 13 Old 09-12-2009, 12:14 PM
 
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I went to a book festival with writers workshop last weekend. I talked with one of the teacher/writers after the session. I mentioned whether I should do a crit group or not. It seems like everyone does them. she asked me if I'd jump off a cliff if everyone did it. she said most writers she knows (and she knows alot from the name dropping she did) do not belong to crit groups. They may read for another author, but not crit groups. She said Robert Olen Butler a friend of hers, who wrote a great writing book as well as a pulitzer winning book, calls them the blind leading the potentially sighted. I was somewhat relieved because I don't do well in groups where I am told what to do.

So maybe you have to decide if you are the potentially sighted one. Do you think the info is valuable if they are not your audience? Are they published? More talented? Or just critical?

I'd be happy to read your chapter, by the way.
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#5 of 13 Old 09-12-2009, 07:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I went to a book festival with writers workshop last weekend. I talked with one of the teacher/writers after the session. I mentioned whether I should do a crit group or not. It seems like everyone does them. she asked me if I'd jump off a cliff if everyone did it. she said most writers she knows (and she knows alot from the name dropping she did) do not belong to crit groups. They may read for another author, but not crit groups. She said Robert Olen Butler a friend of hers, who wrote a great writing book as well as a pulitzer winning book, calls them the blind leading the potentially sighted. I was somewhat relieved because I don't do well in groups where I am told what to do.

So maybe you have to decide if you are the potentially sighted one. Do you think the info is valuable if they are not your audience? Are they published? More talented? Or just critical?

I'd be happy to read your chapter, by the way.
exciting! I'll send it to you in it's current form or I can add to it what I THINK I need to add...I can see the value of adding 'glimpses' like the PP mentioned...I think it's a great start, but adding those moments to 'pull at readers heartstrings' and 'get them vested' in my MC are points that are starting to make sense to me

the male in the group is ultra critical and published...and I see the value in most of what he says. Thankfully I can see take what I like and leave the rest behind, KWIM?

the gals are better at being CONSTRUCTIVE with their critiques, which is why I fixed my first chapter to be the way it is.

First five pages, huh?...OK. Let me get back to work and see what I can do
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#6 of 13 Old 09-13-2009, 03:00 PM
 
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exciting! I'll send it to you in it's current form or I can add to it what I THINK I need to add...I can see the value of adding 'glimpses' like the PP mentioned...
send it either as it is or after the additions or both maybe. Up to you.

Also, I do agree with what some people said/implied that these days, with so many books available and the time crunch of most people, you do need to pull people in in the first couple of pages or they will put it down. I read so much (my addiction) that I don't usually read books that don't pull me in unless I know I'm going to like the subject matter or the writing is really good.
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#7 of 13 Old 09-13-2009, 08:04 PM
 
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I was told to stay away from critique groups. I was even thinking of putting one together and I was told, write your book, find a good, honest, experienced, talented person to edit it when you are done.

My understanding is that the problem with critique groups is "too many rules" and that suggestions are good, what works for me is good, but getting 6 different opinions on how to write each sentence to make it work with the next sentence, the previous sentence and line seven of chapter 18 will bog you down and further complicate an already complicated process.

Oh, I was told that by a successful writer. A very successful writer. He said, you can never be sure if the motivation is to help you get published or for the writer to show off his "expertise" and that usually it's the latter.

He likes writing classes though. He's all for college courses and creative writing workshops.
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#8 of 13 Old 09-13-2009, 08:16 PM
 
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I know professional writers who do critique groups and others who don't. Several of the publishing writers I know were originally a part of my current group, and left the group when their careers really got going and they didn't have time anymore (we meet weekly, it is a big time commitment). Whenever I'm on a panel about critique groups at a con, it's always a big debate... should you? shouldn't you? and if you should, what kind of group? and so on.

Personally, I think your experience with your crit group depends highly on the group ifself and your own working style.

Erin, mom to DD (1/06) and DS (10/09)
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#9 of 13 Old 09-14-2009, 09:21 AM
 
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I know professional writers who do critique groups and others who don't. Several of the publishing writers I know were originally a part of my current group, and left the group when their careers really got going and they didn't have time anymore (we meet weekly, it is a big time commitment). Whenever I'm on a panel about critique groups at a con, it's always a big debate... should you? shouldn't you? and if you should, what kind of group? and so on.

Personally, I think your experience with your crit group depends highly on the group ifself and your own working style.
Yes. I agree. It should be a good match. I think if you are the type to get bogged down by it you should skip it or find a new one. If it's working for you then go for it.

Writing can be very isolating so meeting with others can be very rewarding in that way too.
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#10 of 13 Old 09-30-2009, 11:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was told to stay away from critique groups. I was even thinking of putting one together and I was told, write your book, find a good, honest, experienced, talented person to edit it when you are done.

My understanding is that the problem with critique groups is "too many rules" and that suggestions are good, what works for me is good, but getting 6 different opinions on how to write each sentence to make it work with the next sentence, the previous sentence and line seven of chapter 18 will bog you down and further complicate an already complicated process.

Oh, I was told that by a successful writer. A very successful writer. He said, you can never be sure if the motivation is to help you get published or for the writer to show off his "expertise" and that usually it's the latter.

He likes writing classes though. He's all for college courses and creative writing workshops.
thanks for the reminder to keep what WORKS and compost the rest...I was getting bogged down in making the group happy...but that is NOT why I'm there...to find out what I can do to improve and implement that into my chapters is why I'm there...we shall see. This coming Sunday is my third meeting.
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#11 of 13 Old 10-01-2009, 09:57 AM
 
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Glad you feel better about this.

I like the blind leading the potentially sighted quote!

Just write.

Chapter one? I sat and read ten chapter ones...from some really good novels including The Thorn Birds, Deliverance, Hotel New Hampshire, The Davinci Code, Strong Medicine etc.

What I found. They are all really good at making you want to read chapter two. So then I read the chapter twos and they were all really good at propelling you to chapter three...and so on...in fact I would forget to stop at each chapter.

Beyond that, how they each approached the chapter was completely different. Some started in the middle of the story, some were the end and the author flashed back...

I think a great novel keeps that pace throughout. Each chapter does what the first does. Deliverance does that!

A good novel likely has a bit of lag in the middle but you're too invested to let it bother you much

That's my two cents on first chapters
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#12 of 13 Old 10-08-2009, 12:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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love it! thanks

I've edited my chapter one to death! I thought I had completely killed it and had resigned myself to never writing again...then...slowly...it came back to life! And now I can barely think of anything I need to edit further in it...it's really good - if I say so myself (I think being a successful writer necessitates a bit of cockiness once in a while )

Now I can kill and raise from the dead chapter two, and so on...I wasn't this thorough with my first two rounds of edits, so now I'm seeing what real editing is all about...I think it's safe to say that I hardly edited anything the first few times...wonder why?... but anyway, I'm excited to get a move on! Lest this book take another year to complete!!!
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#13 of 13 Old 10-08-2009, 01:55 PM
 
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Yay! Sounds great! When you love your own stuff...I have chapter one and chapter two that I love....and a bunch in the middle....scattered through out...then some stuff I am not so fond of...

But I'm on a first draft...so I'm not sweating it.

At least you're writing!
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