Today, I would like to talk about what I call "First Chapter Syndrome." This might already be a term coined by a smart person who has done actual research. My research comes from experience and the woes I've heard from fellow writers who can't move past that first chapter. The first chapter is hard. It's excruciating. It bleeds you dry. Let me tell you a little secret.
It took me six years to perfect my first chapter.
I know, I know! I've since realized things. I'm always realizing things, aren't I? That is why I'm a huge proponent of "Do everything wrong at first so that afterward you can do everything right." For instance: The way I wrote my first draft of The Trace? Totally wrong. But that's a discussion for a future blog post. *Makes mental note to self.*
Here are three (and only three!) of the things I have learned that prevent writers from succeeding in that first chapter.
Querying is basically the most terror-invoking process ever. And I still don't know how to write a perfect query! I've read lots and lots about what agents prefer, and the main thing I've learned is that agents are like English professors. If I wrote in this particular style for Prof. X, I'd get an A. If I gave that same paper to Prof. Y, I'd get a C. It's the same with agents. I think. Then again, I don't really know what I'm doing, so...
I'm just going to go ahead and casually segue into the amount of rejections I've received. The current magic number is 10. Every time I tell my mom I got another rejection, she reminds me of how many J.K. Rowling got. The number changes. At first it was 8, and then 18, and then 12, and now I'm just convinced that Rowling never actually got rejected. That sly devil.
The first time I received a rejection email, my heart coiled into a spiral of ice. Yes, that was dramatic, but that's what happened. It was very awkward. I was at work, at the front desk on the second floor, and in walks half of the department because turns out there's a meeting that was scheduled twenty seconds after I read the email. Thanks, library. In walks my boss, and I'm trying to look normal by keeping my eyes extremely wide in a non-psychopathic way.
Disclaimer: I don't know how to draw. My entire family can. In fact, one of my sisters drew a life-size version of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus on her bedroom door. My dad drew a picture of Olivia Newton John and sent it to her, and then got a "thank you" in response. My mom drew a portrait of Paul McCartney (but did not send it to him). My other sister and brother can even doodle to perfection.
That's supposed to be Durgan. Can't you tell how elegant his cloak looks? Don't you like how misshappen his fingers are?
For the longest time, I didn't know what the Grifters looked like. Isn't that funny? I'd see them in my head, I'd see Ella talking to them or random Academists fighting them off, but I didn't even know what I was seeing. I guess they were just blobs of grey, and then I thought, "Hey, maybe they SHOULD be grey!"
The evolution of the Grifters from nothings to enemies to grey blobs to monsters to Grifters was an interesting 2+ year process. The Grifters at first only existed so that the Academists would have something to do. They gradually became important, and then I realized that their origin was crucial to absolutely everything in the trilogy. Figuring out their appearance was the hardest part, because—in case you hadn't realized before—I am not at all creative in the artistic sense. Imagine a story, sure, but conjuring up a physical representation of an idea?
This is a website about me as an author, so, naturally, my blog posts should be about me as a writer. But guess what! I develop as a writer through these posts, so every single thing I talk about concerns me as a writer. Since right now I'm writing. Duh.
There's a lot of pressure to write this post. It's my first one, and I don't even know what to say.
"Hello, I'm Adelaide, but you can call me Ad. Uhh...I wrote a book?"
Who said writing was easy? Why did you lie to me??