I think I’d mentioned that a friend from college reached out and we ended up swapping manuscripts. Well, the friend has finished their review and it leaves me with an interesting issue. It’s one that I knew already, but this kind of highlighted it, which is that I should probably strengthen the first chapter of my book.
I’ve done a few things to fix it already. I had dialect in that first chapter and have now eliminated it. It wasn’t necessary and I think it prevented readers from connecting to the main character.
And I’ve done the general tightening of language that I did throughout the book. (Oh, and just to clarify something from my post on filtering. I definitely was filtering a lot in my book. What I did only four or five times in the book was use it to describe the POV character noticing some micro movement of another character. Those are the filters that I left in to make it clear that the POV character was noticing them. And I left in some other filtering, too, when I thought it just read better.)
Anyway, back to the issue. What I haven’t done is a massive rewrite of the action in the scene.
My friend is an aspiring writer working on subbing their second novel, so has a very strong belief in making the first ten pages zing. Since that might be all an agent sees, my friend believes it should grab them by the throat and not let go. To show this, my friend provided a rewrite of the first scene. And it’s definitely more powerful than the scene I wrote.
Problem is, that’s not the type of book I wrote. So, if I were to go with that rewrite it would make the entire rest of the book a letdown. Chapter one the guy incinerates everyone in his path (I had him fleeing for his life). Well, now what? The action would need to go up from there not down.
So, the question is how do I rework that first chapter to grab a reader without creating a false expectation for the rest of the book? I had intentionally started the chapter in a down moment, so if I move it back or forward a bit that might help.
But, at the end of the day, those first few pages set the reader’s expectation for the rest of the book. So, yes, I need to hook a reader, but I also need to be true to the nature of the story. No one likes the bait and switch.
And in one sense I think this beta’s feedback highlights an issue that may doom the book. (Besides my inability to write. Hahaha.) In a sense, I was writing a book that was anti-Western attitudes.
What I mean by this is that in most Western books there’s this belief that someone arrives and they fix things. They take action and change the world. But sometimes people don’t want to do that. My main character is tired of being used for what he can do. He just wants to be left the hell alone. And he could care less what kind of world he’s living in as long as no one bothers him. So, yeah, he has power, but he doesn’t want to use it.
And the precocious kids in my book that go off and get in trouble aren’t rewarded. They’re very much in danger of being killed for failing to conform. No one’s telling them that, but this is a world that doesn’t allow for individuality. If someone isn’t going to fit, they aren’t going to live.
It’s quite possible I don’t have the writing chops yet to pull off a story that goes against conventional expectations. And I will say that this beta had very different reactions than the other betas, so it could be an individual thing.
At the end of the day, there’s only one way to know and that’s to sub it and see what people think. If I get requests for partials, but no requests for fulls, then I’m going to need to revisit that opening. (More than I already plan to.) But I can’t change the opening so much that it might as well be part of a different book. (Same with the query. The query needs to be true to what the book is, too.)
Anyway, random thinking out loud. I added a pretty picture to make up for it.