Today, I realised that I need to rewrite my first chapter. Again. And I mean rewrite it. Not edit it, or rearrange it. No, I need to scrap 80% of it and start from scratch.
If you had said this to me a couple of weeks ago I would probably have cried, and slammed my laptop lid and stalked off into a corner, feeling hard done by and wondering, ‘What’s the point?’ Because I’ve already done a major rewrite, which involved shifting the entire location of the protagonist’s home from England to a make believe city in a make believe world. And after that major rewrite there were tweakings and re-tweakings. And I thought I was done (at least until the first draft is complete and the proper editing stage begins).
However, today the idea of rewriting doesn’t make me feel angry or sad or hard-done-by. Actually, it makes me feel excited - so why is that? What has changed between now and a few weeks ago?
Well, mainly, I was never completely happy with the beginning of my story. A couple of things niggled at me: firstly, I felt that when the fantasy element of the novel was introduced, it jarred with the opening of the story, which felt more dystopian than fantasy. Secondly, I felt as though I did too much telling with a flashback sequence rather than showing. But I didn’t know how to fix these things.
Then, as I was listening to the audiobook of How to Structure Your Novel on my way to work this morning, it just hit me. POW. And I knew how to make it better. I also realised that, although we might love our first chapter in the beginning, it is the one element of our story that is destined to be re-hashed the most. So, here are three reasons why rewriting your first chapter is inevitable and invigorating:
1. You are not the same now, as you were when you started.
Most writers begin at the beginning. So it’s likely that your first chapter is the very first thing you wrote. Even if you’re only a few thousand words along in your writing journey, your writing style will already be developing. You will be more confident, more aware of what works and what doesn’t. If you’ve been reading about the craft of writing alongside working on your word count, which I sincerely hope you have been, you will be learning more about the essential elements of plot, structure and character development. And all of these things will highlight minor tweaks, or major changes, that need to be made.
2. You have written things that you didn’t plan on writing