Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Warming my Engine

I'm continuing my reading of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham and have found it surprisingly easy to read. When I first purchased the book I did so on the advice of a fellow writer from tNBW (Thanks Crazeesharon!), but I was hesitant to open it. My reluctance came more from my own insecurities than any aversion to reading. I just didn't want to know that I was doing everything (or in this case 38 things) wrong.

I posted about Chapter 1 earlier and I've taken steps to end that mistake - I now have a brand-spanking-new whiteboard above my desk, ready for me to record and plot my word count goals.

Today's post is about openings. Bickham calls it "Warming your Engines" and he suggests not doing it. Being an idler is definitely something I can lay claim to. When I think back to my original version of Janie, I idled as long as possible. I spent so much of my first few chapters giving background and setting the stage that I completely neglected to provide any action. It's only due to some honest and amazing reviewers that I scrapped my crap and now have a solid opening for Janie.

But as I started Reconstruction, I noticed that I was doing it again. Everything I read about sequels suggested that I needed to do some kind of recap for the read, just in case they didn't read the first book. So in my mind, it was better just to dump it into the opening chapter. Well, Thank God I had those honest reviewers again because they  called me on it. I've rewritten the opening chapter and will use the previous versions later in the book.

As I'm rewriting this opening with a focus on more action, I'm really finding it much more enjoyable. I can visualize the scenes and it's not feeling forced. I've managed to give bits and pieces of information without dumping and I think that it's enough for a new reader to come in and not feel completely lost. I've finished the first chapter and have started on the second, which is going to have some drama, and lead into where I need the characters to go, but still it's not forced. It's a conversation that a number of reviewers have asked about and I didn't put it into Evolution because it was going to open up the premise for the sequel, and really until I can sell the first book there's no point in writing it to need a sequel.

 So, I have decided to take Bickham's Chapter 5 advice: Don't warm your engines. Start the story with the first sentence!

On my iPod:

I wish I could tell you, but my battery is dead and my computer has crashed!! New hard drive is being installed and I'll be getting it back in about 3 weeks. Until then I'm destined to listen to the radio in the car, and I can never remember songs and artists :) 


  1. This looks like a great read... and something I could tackle one problem area at a time. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for stopping by! This book is a great read. The chapters are very short, anywhere from 1-4 pages, and presented in a common sense way that makes each idea is managable.

    :) Ang

  3. It took me a while to get out of writing a 'stalled' first chapter. I try to remember to begin with a bang, so to speak.