Confessions of a First Chapter Editor


Bless me blog readers, for I have sinned.  I do not remember when my last confession was.

Last night I succumbed to hypocrisy as I went into Scrivener and…rewrote the beginning of my novel in progress.

I know I’ve said it time and time again, writing is about going forward, working on the end, that going back to the beginning of a work creates a difficult spiral of overediting and underwriting a manuscript.  I understand these things.  I know these things.  I can only cry out that it was a moment of weakness, a temptation that I couldn’t overcome.  I gave in.  Haven’t we all at some point or another?  Haven’t we all hit that moment where we know we shouldn’t, but we do anyway?

Perhaps we start POV hopping?  Perhaps we start editing too soon?  Perhaps we explore a plot line we know isn’t constructive to the story?

Oh, I’m not trying to pin my moment of weakness on you, reader.  I’m not saying that because you were weak it means that I have a license to be weak.  But aren’t we all human?  Don’t we all have those demons calling at us, trying to get us to do wrong, to step off the straight and narrow path of first drafting?  They’re horrible little buggers with names like Editing.  Tangent.  Research.  Ahh, my friend and nemesis research.  Did you know that the Civil War governor of Georgia sent out a broadsheet to all mechanics in the state calling on them to drop everything else to create six foot pikes for use by all able-bodied citizens to run through the bastard Union soldiers when their guns jammed or ran out of bullets?  And do you know that after I was done rewriting the opening, I still wasn’t working on the end because I was reading that broadsheet out loud to my wife in a thoroughly horrible Civil War Confederate accent?

But that’s not what I was talking about.  I was talking about the editing I did.  See, our beta readers thought it started too slowly.  And it did.  And we had an idea on how to fix it.  And I didn’t want to forget it.  And I had a good inspiration for some lines.  And…look, I know, these are all excuses, pitiful reasons to have stopped work and done something I’ve railed against in the past.

As penance, 2000 words tonight.  Absolutely.  Move the story forward, don’t look back, keep pushing through this first draft.  Then I can edit.

The thing is then…I won’t want to.

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