Killing Chapter One

The Desert Muses is thrilled to announce our June guest blogger. Please help me welcome writer and artist C.B. Wentworth.

At some point in a writer’s life we’ve all had to face that moment of truth when we have to slash our manuscripts. My decision to cut the entire first chapter of my book 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 a long lists of tweets from agents, a common thread of no-no’s began to emerge:

  • Too much backstory
  • Describing the weather
  • Describing the sky
  • Protagonist just ‘waking up’
  • Prologue

It’s funny how you may think you’re 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 of no-no’s to my novel, I realized I had committed every writing sin except for the prologue.

I decided to visit the YA section of my bookshelf and began scanning through all the first chapters of my favorite books. Keeping the list above in mind, it was easy to see what those author were doing right and what I was doing wrong. A change needed to be made and it needed to be big.

Untitled1I pulled up my book on my Kindle Fire and re-read the first chapter multiple times; the biggest issues I detected were backstory and weather description. Luckily, for my book The Muse the solution for backstory was easy…I could track each segment of backstory to another section of the novel, so really I didn’t need the backstory to be in the first chapter. As for weather description, the foreshadowing was nice, but not entirely necessary.

When I edited and eliminated the two elements that weakened my story, there wasn’t much of Chapter 1 left. Hmmmm . . . that got me thinking,  why not just delete the entire first chapter? Unfortunately, as most writers know, it’s rarely that easy to fix a novel. Sure enough, when I scrolled down into Chapter 2, it began with the main character waking up. Argh! Another thing on the ‘don’t do’ 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 could be easily fixed. A sentence here and a slight deletion there would clear up the hate list issues.

I’m now transitioning Chapter 2 to be the ‘new beginning’ to The Muse. I guess we’ll see how this goes. Wish me luck!______________________________________________________________________

C.B. Wentworth is a writer and artist. She writes young adult fantasy fiction and is currently on the hunt for an agent to represent her novel.

Her blog documents her adventures in writing and showcases experiments in black out poetry and haiku. When the muse needs a break, she’s been known to dabble in knitting and wander off on hiking trails.