The Quest for an Exciting Recollective Beginning

I finally broke down and did it: I began revising from the very beginning.

I can practically hear the communal groan. “Aren’t you done revising yet?!”

No. Not yet.

Before you throw your computer across the room, think back to chapter 1 of volume 1. And think how boring that was. Well, okay, 270k words later, you might not even remember there WAS a chapter 1. But I do, because I spent hours belaboring the opening after a friend of mine who majored in publishing put track changes all over my manuscript. That was years ago, and I changed it since then.

But then I met with a friend of a friend, who has an agent, and she said intro stuff like prologues and childhood chapters should not exceed one chapter combined. I’ve sat on that knowledge awhile, unsure how to scrunch three significant background chapters into one.

Lately, I’ve been reading all these articles about “purple prose,” exorbitant details, packed dialogue, unnecessary dialogue tags, the importance of a good “hook,” and how much of a story readers, editors, and agents really look at when they’re deciding whether to stick with it. Meanwhile, I’ve been toying with alternate recollective openers, in both Labriella’s and Rome’s perspectives. I even thought of putting in both perspectives as a dual opener, on pages opposite one another for contrast (which, of course, would fail in an ebook). But I could not make a recollection exciting in the way that people keep saying is important.

Then I realized that, as much as I love recollective works, they aren’t exciting. Intriguing, perhaps. But their openers are not at all representative of whatever action may lay inside. That’s fine for me, if I’m buying the book, because I love the main character’s level of intimacy with the reader. As long as I get lost in the middle, I’m sold. But if I’m trying to draw in an editor, publisher, or agent to make them see in a few short lines that my book is different (and that that difference is exciting), recollective tense may not be the best way for me to market my book. I’m having trouble with the “Chronicles” aspect of it anyway, considering I have two main characters who would allegedly be chronicling at the same time (one of whom has no love of writing, due to his claws).

So today, I finally said “Screw it,” got out my pen and new notebook, and started writing an opening in the same tense as I would in the middle—like the character’s personality had already been developed and established. I completely shaved off the childhood chapters, and began integrating personality, dream, and temple aspects right from the beginning. I left off all the explanations and narration, and left Labriella with actions and quips. At this rate, Rome will be introduced as her savior by the end of chapter 1, and you’ll grasp just enough temple context before it gets the heck out of dodge for the real storyline.

What I’ve written so far makes the first-revision Labriella look like a flat character by comparison. I’ve been feeling for awhile like Labriella was a static character, so it’s about time I figured out how to change it. I kept reading things about making sure the beginning reads the same as the rest of the story, but I didn’t understand what that meant until now. By starting the tone like I’m in the middle, I’m boosting the actual middle, raising the standard to make it more energetic.

The other thing I’m looking to do is to make Rome more beastly and wild from the beginning. With his childhood taken out of the way, and little reflective clues dropped throughout, perhaps the reader will catch on to what happened as Labriella does—or a couple steps behind her, since she knew Rome once. If orchestrated correctly, the beast-fear factor might be something overcome in the beginning or throughout instead of at the end.

For those of you who wish I’d just finish volume 2 and call it a book…so do I. But I’m blocked. I’ve tried for the last month to force my way through it, and I know I can. But when I do that, my chapters take longer, and they just aren’t as good. I think a large part of my block is because subconsciously my creative effort wants to be redirected toward revising, and I’ve been denying it that outlet to try to press forward. It’s time to go with the creative flow, and see what comes out. That is how I’ve always written, after all. It would be foolish to think I can force it another way now.

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