Oh, the pressure of a first chapter. It's like planning to fall in love, or alternately, to punch your reader in the face (Chuck Palahnuik, I'm thinking of you). In either case, the point is to make contact. To TOUCH my reader and pull them by their lapels into the story. To draw them so spellbound, into the world I've created that they never want to leave, not even to use the bathroom.
What to do? How to do it?
As an author, I am a constant reviser. I go back and reread everything, make changes, correct grammar, fix the "flow."
But not this time!
For my new book, called "Princess" here for short, I've decided that I am leaving my first chapter alone until the end. I am not revising! I've written thousands of words past those first few pages, but I'm not looking back. It's part of a my 2015 philosophy, which is more settled and more intuitive. Less looking for perfection and more living with what is. That change in philosophy is due to one major realization:
I won't really know my beginning until I know my end.
See, I am a "Gardener" and not an "Architect," meaning that as a writer (and possibly as a human being), I never know where I am headed, exactly, until I get there. Please see Brandon Sanderson's Youtube video about this distinction (and check out his other cool stuff). Specifically, I start off and organically build my book from scene to scene. And like the reader, the first time around, I don't know what is going to happen!
I have seen this called "Pantser" in a blog post recently, as in "flying by the seat of my pants." Well, I'm not that free. I have some idea, but only loosely.
Architects, on the other hand, plan a whole book out before they take their first step. These are the folks who buy the travel guide before they go on vacation. And consequently, as they take the first steps of their literary journey, they know if the boy gets the girl. They know if the evil Queen dies at the end or if she transforms the beautiful Princess into a Frog who can ice skate.
But not me. This year, I'm going to be surprised.
Coranna Adams is a writer, filmmaker, and educator from Asheville, North Carolina.