A couple of weeks ago I finished the second draft of the novel that I’ve been working on since last summer. It finally reached the stage where I needed to give it to somebody else as I had completely lost any objectivity I might have once had. So, as usual, I passed it on to my long-suffering partner for a read and an initial edit.
After a few days of reading a handful of pages each evening she reached a point where she couldn’t put it down. Obviously I was thrilled but what I really wanted to know was what had those first few days been about? Why only a few pages at a time? So she told me what I’d suspected for the last few months. I hadn’t started the story in the right place. I needed to start at Chapter Seven not Chapter One.
I’ve asked for advice from fellow writers occasionally, when I’m floundering or feeling like my writing is stale, and I’ve received numerous helpful suggestions but the one piece of advice that I just can’t follow is to jump ahead and write a chapter from later in the novel. I have to write chronologically. I wrote Fracture as a linear story, starting with Rosie going to Australia; the police interview sections were originally halfway through. Only when I’d finished could I go back and re-structure for maximum impact. I’ve never seen this as a problem, but not starting a story in the right place is a bit of a new experience for me.
So I’m now facing the prospect of cutting the first 15,000 words – they won’t be entirely lost as some of the scenes are necessary for the story but these can take place later – and I’m procrastinating. I know it needs to be done and I know that the book will be better for having a new starting point but the prospect of losing a big chunk of writing then opening a new Word document and cutting and pasting Chapter Seven onto it is quite daunting. I’m sure that, once I start, the pace of the story will inspire me to get the structure right – I just need to do that first cut and paste.
Having written this and admitted that I’m putting off what needs to be done might actually help. If I can close this document, open my draft, highlight Chapter Seven and then hit Control X ……….