I’m finding myself revising the beginning of the MS I have been pitching. And not just a little edit, but a major revision.
Maybe I’ve been turning a blind eye… or simply not being as critical as I should be.
But a recent rejection made me take a second look at the beginning of my book. In their comments (I actually received comments!), they said some [hurtful] things that didn’t make sense. But instead of crying profusely or raging out at the world, I tried to take the middle ground: do a harsh edit using their actually helpful comments, and see what that gets me.
When I do a major revision, I made a whole new duplicate document, saving the original, and made the changes in the new one. That way if I realize this was a terrible idea and only a self-loathing-induced fit, I could turn back to the original and forget the duplicate ever existed. Or, learn from the fit and keep some of the changes, but not have an irreversibly changed MS.
I realized as I tore apart my first few chapters… that I haven’t really looked at them in… apparently a long while. And I’ve grown as a writer in that while.
For example, there was a lot of unnecessary italicized inner-dialogue that could be turned into normal “showing,” making scenes much smoother without the sometimes jarring, emphasized italicized version of my MC’s thoughts.
Interestingly enough, one scene I wrote a long time ago, and distinctly remember being proud of, was actually superfluous and awkward. It was much too information-dumpy, and was something I could spread out and drop more casually in the story.
Also, my chapter endings were boring. I’m not sure how it escaped my attention that they were, probably focusing on the content of the chapters without thinking of the further-draw aspect. But with some scene rearranging, the chapters end with a little more enticement to read the next chapter. The new scene set up actually makes more sense and is smoother, too, which is interesting.
I came across an article recently (I think I pinned it to one of my Pinterest boards) about chapter endings. We’ve all seen the cliff-hanger chapters, which is the #1 way of enticing readers to continue on. But this article cautioned that it was possible to go overboard and make a book choppy; another way of ending chapters was to always end with a question, or the next piece of the mystery.
You’re probably saying, “yeah I knew this already,” but for some reason I hadn’t taken that tidbit to heart when I wrote the beginning of this manuscript. The chapters just ended where it seemed like a good place, without really thinking about drawing people further. The later chapters, for sure… but those aren’t the chapters that publishers or agents will see first anyway!
So I feel a little silly. I’d been so focused on the ending, the plot, and the next book in the series that I hadn’t given sufficient time to the aspect that will actually make or break the whole dang thing.
Though it’s heartening to see my craft improving.
What is your favorite chapter ending/method? Have you realized something silly you were missing because you were so focused elsewhere? What is your latest ‘ah-ha!’ rejection story?