Well it is the New Year and I have started it as I mean to go on, new book, 6,000 words a month I feel is a reasonable target, and so far I am sticking to it.
This is my second novel, and some things are easier second time round, some more difficult. For instance I am already thinking about viewpoint, which did not happen until I was well into the previous one. I am toying with the idea of doing it first person, not sure. I wonder how late into a book one can make that decision? I am also thinking about structure far more and am fairly excited by what I am intending to do.
What is harder is looking at the mountain to climb. The first novel just starts, and being naive, one thinks, oh this will be easy, just keep writing. But having got through that, I now know what lies ahead and it looks terrifying from here.
I do remember last time that the first chapter was easy and I felt would hook the reader from the start; this time round it feels like pants. But I can come back to that.
Here is an interesting thought though; it is assumed that the first chapter, the first line, is what will hook the reader. Everyone can quote, “It’s a truth universally acknowledged …” (P&P – Austen) and many others to illustrate this point. (Does anyone remember the Monty Python sketch where watching Thomas Hardy write a novel was treated as spectator sport with commentator etc? – 10 minutes sitting watching him write the opening line, score it out, start again etc, and then commentators discussing whether it was a good opening?)
My thought, though, is that when I pick up a book and consider whether to read it, I don’t ever read the first line. I look at the cover and title. If I’m attracted I pick it up and read the back. I then flick through the pages and get a sense of it. My buying decision is never made by reading the first page.
I recently got “Life on the Refridgerator Door” by Alice Kuipers by this method. I quite liked its bright pink cover, but skimming through it, I could see that it was entirely made up of post its written by mother and daughter, and was intrigued by this structure.
Someone from my creative writing class gave me a snippet from the Daily Express Nov 4th, Beachcomer. He (or she – I don’t usually read the Express) says reading the first line of the second chapter is far more revealing and interesting, but that most writers don’t bother crafting this as well. Interesting because I think I do write each chapter as if it were a stand alone feature and I need to keep the reader going. Whether this has worked, I guess I will find out soon as right now the book is being read by an agent….
Keep in touch – it is great to hear from all the other writers out there who are taking time to read and respond to me!
(First published January 2008)
Additional comments: Hmmm.. that novel stalled at 20,000 words. It was a great concept, a journalist being haunted by regrets, but it was overtaken by other events – namely being commissioned to –re- write the Development books to fit in with a relaunch Hodder were doing of the entire range. I discovered that I couldn’t work on more than one book at once. However I’m hoping this book will come back later this year as Only Nutters Believe in Ghosts, re-written with a teenage protagonist.
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