Monday, January 30, 2012
That Pesky First Chapter and the RAGE it Creates
OKAY. All you writers out there! You know the feeling when you've finished your book leading up to the sequel/after the sequel/final book, and you're like, "Yes! I'm going to get started on the new one and write about fifty pages in an hour and I'm so hyper and my characters are so awesome and I AM SO PSYCHED!!!!!!!!" ?
You learn to hate it, don't you? Because eventually you'll learn you are not going to get started on the new one, you are not going to write about fifty pages in an hour, and you are hyper and awesome, but after a few minutes of trying to get your first chapter going, you will most definitely NOT be psyched.
If you're like me, you're obsessed with having a prologue before you start the book to gain people's interest, and partially your own. Usually, this is how my cycle of trying to write a new book goes:
1. Play prescribed music for my prologue, write a KICKASS 4-5 page prologue that I plan to cut down later; reread it about two times out of happiness and move on.
2. Plan to completely wipe out this first chapter with amazingness and place hands on the keyboard: Chapter 1.
3. Sit there.
4. Sit there some more. Listen to prescribed music.
5. Look at the clock and see that it's been half an hour. Resist urge to turn TV on, get onto Internet, etc. Write a few random words to delete them three seconds later.
6. Finally get a page done, and then your creativity is gone. Sit there, trying to write more.
7. Change music to un-prescribed music in the hope I'll find a secret alcove of creativity I haven't used up yet to write the rest of the chapter.
You get the idea. I reach this road block—I wouldn't call it writer's block, because the thing is I know what needs to be written. But I just can't find the words themselves in order to write it. To me, that isn't writer's block. Writer's block is the hopeless feeling you get when you've been trapped at Chapter 18 for about three months but you can't write anything. This is what I call First Chapter Block.
Here is a good example of how the dreaded Chapter 1 makes me feel:
I have a few methods I use to try and get out of the ditch Chapter 1 mercilessly throws me in. The bottom of that ditch is filled with water, spikes, and sharks; thank you very much.
Here are the above mentioned methods:
1: Procrastinate until two months have passed and, with dread and annoyance, I sit down to try and write again.
2: Sit there until I write. Usually forcing myself like this results in crap writing that involves crappy analogies, repeated sentences and phrases, lousy personality, icky dialogue, etc. Then afterward I glare in the mirror at myself, unwilling to forgive myself for making such a terrible chapter.
3: Make a different sort of first chapter, changing some of the events to hopefully regain interest.
4. Procrastinate the annoying parts of the first chapter to the second chapter in order to face them later.
5. Make bloody scenes. Blood and guts and knives and guns. I don't know why, but I enjoy writing it and often gain an entire bowl of creativity from this exercise. I don't know why I love writing bloody scenes. I promise I won't turn into a serial killer. I'll leave that to my book characters.
Here is the definition of Chapter 1 for me:
The part of the book where you have to re-introduce all your characters again, the scenery again, the plot again, the villains again, and the personalities of each and every person. AGAIN. All the while introducing the new plot line, any new characters, possibilities, and doing everything you can to keep the reader's interest. You also have to avoid all that goddamn passive writing, point-of-view changes, grammatical awkwardness, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
I hate Chapter 1. I love the content of my story. I just want to continue my story from where it left off at the end of my book, but I'm too lazy to write summaries in the beginning so I opt for simply trying to put it through the first chapter. It usually turns out harder. Writing Chapter 1 is like voluntarily leaping into a pit of lava, thinking that you'll be immune to the burn. And then you will hate yourself.
Because you are not immune.
Chapter 1 is the worst Chapter you will ever have to write. And if you love to write, chances are, you're going to have to write it. About seventy times or more depending on how many books you write in your lifetime. And each and every time, if you are like me, you will hate it until you wish you could grab it off of your computer screen, throw it onto a fire, and watch it burn until it's nothing but ashes and cinders until it surrenders to your will and writes itself.
Have a nice day. (: