Over and again I hear how the first pages of your novel can kill or encourage your readers’ attention.
Over and again I agonize over those first, desperate paragraphs and pages.
Over and again I have doubts well after I decide these pages are the way the characters desire the story to begin (well, except for To Save a Soul).
To date, I am juggling three different chapter one possibilities for my inspirational/historical romance, Searching for Sara.
- Option 1 is actually a Prologue inserted after I received the email from Nick Harrison of Harvest House suggesting I pick up the pace a bit. But, again and again, I remember the post by K.M. Weiland warning about the use of Prologues. Also, there is the fact that many readers skip these. True, my Prologue for SfS is not required reading to follow the storyline, but if that is the case, why have it at all?
- Option 2 is a re-work of the first chapter taken from the 2011 NaNoWriMo re-write of SfS. This re-write explored the possibility of having Christopher not being a widower and Sara knowing she wants to become a professional artist. Also, instead of Christopher’s sister passing along his contact information to Sara, Christopher is actually at the party and passes his gallery information to her himself.
- Option 3 follows the same line of thinking as Option 2, but Christopher is still destined to become a widower. In Option 3, he is in England seeking undiscovered artists and attempting to get his mind off the fact that his wife is having a difficult and dangerous pregnancy. Sara and he meet at the same party from Option 2, but this time – as in the original – she is unable to follow to America until almost two years later.
At the moment, I am leaning strongly toward Option 3, and not because this option will bypass a complete and utter revision of the manuscript. Although that is a perk. Option 3 is a balance of introducing the reader to the characters, their immediate click of friendship, and the emotional plight of both. It hints at the future torture for Chris, and [hopefully] encourages the readers to root for Sara’s courage in stepping toward her dreams.
Also, Option 3 would not have come to mind without first drafting options 1 and 2. In that there is a strength to the option’s foundation. At least, in my mind there is. We writers are fickle, however, and tomorrow I might sing the praises of Option 1 instead.
My plan is to complete the drafts of Options 2 and 3 and then put them up for commentary. After all, shouldn’t the readers have a say in a book’s meager beginnings? That and I think it will be fun to read the reactions.
What about you? How many times do you rewrite those first few pages?