Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How Many Times Can I Rewrite the First Chapter?

I glanced at my watch. Two minutes to spare—or sweat—until time for my fifteen-minute appointment with an agent at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. I took a deep breath, exhaled, then mentally reviewed my checklist: pitch, first chapter, one sheet, business card, bottle of water (for my dry mouth). I sat down in the chair offered by the agent and gently laid my baby, A.K.A. the first chapter of my novel, on the table in front of her.

She read the first few pages, then suggested a major change. I should drop the humor and heighten the drama. Later that day, during another appointment, an editor made the same suggestion. What had they done—compared scripts?

I was one very unhappy momma. I loved my baby just the way she was.

Now, I had two choices: rewrite the story and continue pursuing publication, or keep the story as it was and be content with the results.

I want to publish this novel. With two professionals sharing the same opinion, I’d be foolish not to listen carefully to their criticism. But contest judges and first readers, who’ve all read more of this story, have loved the humor. So instead of making it more dramatic, I’ve decided to ease up on the tension so the jokes can remain, which means I’ll have to rewrite the chapter—again.


How many times can I rewrite the first chapter?

Apparently, once more.

Contest Buzz:

At present, publishers are not looking for Chick Lit or any other Lit books.

With the economy in a slump, and Americans tossing $50 or more into their gas tanks, consumers must choose between necessities or entertainment. Publishers are feeling the pinch. They’ll continue to publish new books, but those books will be written by established authors.

New authors will have a harder time selling, but editors will always buy a compelling story with a high concept and a great hook written in a unique voice about unforgettable characters.

No problem.

Isn’t that what we’re all trying to write?

~ Roxanne Sherwood ~


Sherry Kyle said...


One editor told me that I didn't "hook" him with my sample chapter. Ouch! Of course, that may be because I handed him chapter 1 instead of the prologue. (I was listening to the best-selling authors!) As he was reading, I realized that to understand what was going on, I needed him to read the prologue. Oops. After we discussed some changes, I boldly asked him if I could send him my proposal after I tweaked it a bit. He said I could! You never know!

Beth K. Vogt said...

And here's the question you asked me when we talked after you got back from ACFW:
Do I really want to do this? "This" being write fiction.
That is the question every author has to answer.
Do you want to do this--write, rewrite, accept critique ....
Life along the writing road.

Lisa Jordan said...

I, too, am rewriting my beginning again. Why? Because we want to wow the editor or agent who reads it. You know your beginning so well that it won't take much to revise the opening. You can do it!