Saturday, June 4, 2011

Don't turn out the lights.

I am again working on the first chapter of my manuscript. If the chapter were a lightbulb, I'd say it was 40 watts.

I have not made the problem clear initially, and that's causing succeeding chapters to lose power, as though they were running off a wobbly generator.

I have written other first chapters for this manuscript, but they seem to belong elsewhere in the book. Not in the beginning. The present final chapter comes, as it were, at the end of the grid, and the impact is very weak indeed.

I've just finished "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson, published in 2010. While not a childen's novel, it is a delightful read, worth mentioning on this blog because it is a "first" novel and made it directly on to the Times Bestseller List.

I've gone back and examined its first chapter. Indeed, all plot threads are laid out in these pages. Like a good electrician who knows which wires will serve which parts of a dark house, a good writer must be sure that each thread snakes through the novel with enough "juice" to light up the ending. I'm sure Ms. Simonson rewrote that first chapter more than once.

To complete the metaphor, I've got to start my novel at 100 watts and finish with 100watts. No burned out bulbs in between.


  1. Funny you should mention the first chapter in MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND. When I read it, I noticed the same thing about that chapter. You knew exactly where you were headed. Nice.

  2. Great post and metaphor, Linda.

  3. I read MAJOR PETTIGREW'S last stand as well. It's also a wonderful example of close third person narration.

  4. Okay -- another book goes on the TBR pile. And Linda, I have faith in your ability to snake all the right wires through and cap them off at the end!