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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Most Crucial Part of Your Book



As I thought about what to write today, I was reminded of an experience I had as I tried to submit my first book to literary agents.

It was a positive experience because I learned something, but also a 'bang your head on the table' experience. I had forgotten what the most important part of my novel was. I was so captivated by my exciting conflicts, captivating climaxes, and the remaining two stories I still have to write I had forgotten about the first chapter.

My story is such that my first chapter was rewritten no less than 20 times. I knew it was important, so I worked hard to make it as great as possible. I finally got to a point that I just moved on, the beginning was at a good spot, I felt like I'd encompassed beta-reader feedback, I introduced my antagonist and felt I created a mystery about what was going to happen with said antagonist.

I admit my first 15 agents I sent the manuscript to, I did so prematurely. This is why I bang my head. By nature I'm not a patient person, but on my trilogy I had spent two years writing it, and the last year revising. I was patient, I wanted to do it right, but for a moment I lost patience and felt such pride in my book-not a bad thing to have pride in your work- but I sent it prematurely. I realized after my inbox had crickets chirping, or an occasional rejection I looked back at my first chapter.

Guys, the chapter was good, structurally. I have a massive conflict that occurs, but I began my story saying my antagonist was nothing special. Literally in my first paragraph I described him, and said he viewed himself as nothing special.

WHY IN THE WORLD would an agent want to continue reading a story in which the main character is nothing special? My writing was good, it developed a character, but when I was honest with myself I realized for the first 9 pages my antagonist didn't really do much to keep a reader interested. Yes, the end of the chapter offered some excitement and from chapter 2 on I feel the story moves quickly and is captivating.

Th purpose of this post is to remind you, who are writing, to review your first ten pages. Better yet, have a stranger read them. Strangers will be honest, because they are objective and make excellent beta-readers. Make sure your story sucks a reader, or potential agent in those first few pages. I lost sight of that. I knew in my mind not much happened in the first bit, but as the author I knew what was going to happen. I believe I talked myself into believing that if they could just read the entire book I would get my million dollar deal.

I may never get an opportunity with those 15 agents, in fact I'm not sure I will traditionally publish, but I don't view this as an opportunity wasted. It was a learning experience, and in truth that is what writing is...one big learning curve.

I challenge you to re-read your beginning. Then ask another person to read it. Make sure when potential readers flip through the pages, whether on a book shelf or when they get to view a sample on Amazon that they want to keep reading it and buy it. 

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