After my trip to Iceland, I returned to London for a one-night pit stop. One weekend into the winter break, most of my classmates had already left the country. Many went back to the United States to spend the holidays with their families, and a few others went off to do some more traveling. I prepped myself to do the latter.
I moved my luggage from the flat in Bloomsbury over to my law school’s building and packed about seven days’ worth of clothing into a canvas “holdall” bag from Marks & Spencer. The clothes would last me two weeks as I rode the rails around Europe as part of my self-imposed rite of passage to become a full-fledged pretentious writer (note: I washed my clothes at a hostel in Athens halfway through the trip).
The first stop on my solo trip was Scandinavia.
The first chapter might be the most important chapter in a novel.
Whether you’re trying to entice an agent or publisher for traditional publishing, or trying to keep readers who’ve picked up your self-published masterpiece, the first chapter needs to be a great hook.
There are plenty of articles out there which detail some elements of a good opening chapter (like this one from Writers’ Digest which describes several agent-repelling mistakes, and this list of tips by Chuck Wendig).
So, rather than try to provide comprehensive advice here, I’m focusing on three major issues I’ve encountered while writing my own first chapter(s): (1) knowing where to start the narration; (2) being able to set aside perfectionism so you can finish the rest of the manuscript; and (3) having the humility to make major changes.
After finals in London, I headed off to Iceland with my friend Pumpkin Spice (not her real name, obviously). On the bus ride to Reykjavik from the airport I fell asleep and she woke me up so I’d stop embarrassing her with my alleged snoring.
“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”
Every time I finish a round of editing on my novel manuscript I think something along the lines of, “Cripes, it’s so much better now.” This has happened about fifteen or sixteen times and it makes me afraid of how crappy the first drafts must have been. Continue reading
Yep, a lame wingtip photo.
After my would-be adventures in Italy with my fellow law students, I flew solo from Rome to Munich. I spent the first night wandering on foot for a few hours.
The next morning, I headed off to Dachau to visit the concentration camp. Like the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, the entire experience was rather somber. Going into the gas chambers gave me an unexpected chill. It’s a creepy space to walk through and I did it backwards, first seeing the room where they incinerated the bodies, then walking into the “shower” room where they murdered all those people and finally seeing the slots outside through which they dropped the gas canisters.
Gas canister drop slots.
“Work makes [you] free.” Right.