My problem is the revised first chapter. I’ve written two novels and am about to submit my second novel to agents. I have edited the entire manuscript and think it is ready for submission, but the opening lines, first chapter, etc. are holding me back. I read agent blogs, and so many of them discuss the importance of a great first line, paragraph, etc. Many say they only look at the first two pages, and this terrifies me. I spend so much time trying to perfect these first few pages that I end up hacking it to death to the point that it’s terrible! Any suggestions on editing/revision for the first chapter of the novel?
Maybe you should stop reading agents’ blogs?
I’m kidding. Reading agents’ blogs is an excellent way to learn about the business and what some of the typical agent bugbears are. It also lets you know that not all agents are the same. Something which is very reassuring when you’re sending out and being rejected. They’re not all looking for the same thing. If one of them isn’t in to you it does not mean that all of them won’t be.
Has anyone other than you looked at your book? Someone who’s a good critiquer and has enough emotional distance from you so they can tell you the truth? Preferably more than one such someone. If not, send the first chapter of your novel to a bunch of different people and have them tell you whether they’d keep reading or not. And if they wouldn’t, why wouldn’t they? Fix accordingly and then send out.
If you’ve already had your entire novel, critiqued, and you’re the only one who’s freaked out about the first chapter, then it’s time to down tools and send it out.
What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen?
You’ll get rejected. Most often it will be a form letter rejection so you’ll have no idea if it was the first chapter that put them off. Could be they already bought a zombie koala novel. Or maybe they hate zombie novels of any kind.
Rejection is a big part of, not only getting published, but staying published.
To take your mind off your novel being out there being perused by agents—why not start your next novel?
NOTE: Please ask your writing questions over here. It’s easier for me to keep track of them and answer them in order if they’re all at the end of that one post. Thanks! I’m taking writing advice quessies for the whole of January.
- I realise I keep saying that but, truly, luck is one of the most important ingredients for a successful writer. [↩]