Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Feeling's Gone

I submitted my first page to Flogging the Quill. I had a feeling the reviewer wouldn't care for it, and he didn't. I told myself I wouldn't look until Friday, when a new post would be up and mine would be moved down, but the reviewer sent me an email so I looked.

(groan) Bad idea. I'd been feeling pretty good about things, but, to quote Finding Nemo, "Good feeling's gone."

I've spent eight months rewriting the first scene. I like it the way it is, if it's going to be there at all. The reviewer suggested jumping ahead to the action a few pages ahead, but I'm extremely uncomfortable with that idea. (The later scene involves a Ranger being attacked by a lion.)

The thing is, I find myself in the excruciatingly uncomfortable position of trying to reconcile my own personal taste with what I'm told the publishing world wants. No doubt agents and editors would be more likely roused from their cynical fog by a guy in mortal peril from a ferocious, man-eating beast.

But, personally, if I opened a book and that was the first scene, I'd toss it aside as too graphic. I'd rather build slowly. That whole section seems a little gratuitous anyway, essentially a concession to readers who like more immediate action in their narratives.

I'm thinking now of doing away with the whole first chapter altogether. I'm thinking of eliminating the male POV and just focusing on the heroine. I'm thinking of redecorating my dollhouses, or taking up cross-stitch again.

I'm thinking maybe I should just write the book the way I want to, and stop trying to please everyone. But that's how writers don't get published. At least, I think so. I can't really say, since their books aren't available to read.

I have a literary reader who's offered to look at it. I haven't given it to him yet because, frankly, I'm a little embarrassed. I have a feeling he'll hate it. I've come so far from my original concept. Perhaps I've come too far.

Or not far enough.

Who the heck knows?

I mean, the feedback was good. I'm not questioning the responses. It's just that I really don't have a clue how to make this story fit what everyone else is looking for. For one thing, if I do cut the first chapter, where does all that character development go? So then I have to ask, is this story publishable? Maybe not. Can I live with that? I think so. I'd rather be done - finally - than just keep cycling back to the beginning like a hamster on a wheel.

Yes, I'd like it to just be done. Then maybe we can all (including you, my patient friends) move on with our lives.

I do think a big part of the problem is my fear of over-writing, which has possibly resulted in under-writing. I was told I was melodramatic a long time ago, and have tried very hard to avoid such a charge since.

I think I've succeeded.


Bane of Anubis said...

I hear your frustration big time. I've rewritten first chapters on a couple of my pieces just b/c I feel like that's what I was 'supposed' to do. It's hard to know what's 'right' or 'wrong,' particularly given the fluid nature of the publishing industry (one that frequently seems to be a step or two behind the actual pulse of things).

Clear your thoughts some and decide whether you want to bow to the pressure or write what you want. Ultimately, it's important that you're happy with the story.

Christine H said...


I looked up my old narrator-ish beginning. It may have a little more psychic distance than the current version, but what it does have is a distinctive voice. That is what I feel I'm missing the most - the voice.

I'm also working on adding Marenya's POV in that first scene, as we discussed.

Douglas G Clarke said...

I liked what you wrote, but there were a few places that seemed hard for me to read. I've been reading a book called, "The Fire In Fiction."

If you would like to see it, I would like to try and rewrite your opening using the tips from the book.

If on the other hand you don't think that you would be amused by my efforts, I won't spend my time or cause you angst.

Christine H said...

Sure, Doug! You can email me if that's easier. My email is

bunnygirl said...

Go on and write the rest of the book before you worry about the first chapter. By the time you get to the end, you may have to change the first chapter, anyway. Or you may find that the first chapter was for you, to get you into the head space you need to be in to write everything that comes after.

If you haven't finished at least half of the first draft, don't worry about your beginning. Most writers don't fail to get published because they write as the spirit moves them but because they don't finish.

Christine H said...

Oh, Ann, I'm a third of the way through the fourth draft. But, thanks!

The later chapters are still first draft because I keep going back and trying to fix the earlier ones. Like tugging at the bottom of the bedspread in order to straighten the wrinkles at the top, but that only creates new wrinkles.

Richard Havers said...

I'd go ahead and "just write the book the way I want to." Sure writers don't get published, but others do; the whole thing is a lottery anyway.

Christine H said...

Hello, Richard! Thanks for your perspective. I don't even want to think about the whole "lottery" aspect.