There's a saying that the hardest line to write is the first. I won't disagree with that--it's sometimes half the battle just to get started, and the first line is all about crossing over from talking about writing to actually writing. But they're lying. The hardest part isn't just the first line; it's the first chapter.
The first chapter is everything. It establishes your setting, your tone, the characters and their baseline before the plot happens, and it has to all be wrapped up in a beautiful, enticing package that seduces the reader into wanting to read more.
I know a lot of writers lament the "middle" of a novel--where the plot stalls and sinks like a cake with no leavening--but it's the beginning that causes me the most struggle.
Ironically, it was only a few posts ago (my first post, incidentally) where I was lamenting that I had to rewrite the middle and end of The Lucky Charm. And it did need to be rewritten, make no mistake about that, but then it turned out that the first chapter needed rewritten too.
What it boils down to is this: in a novel, the characters go on a journey. Sometimes literally; but usually, more like metaphorically. I believe that for a novel to be satisfying, there's a journey each character needs to take on their own, and then if the novel is a romance, there's a journey the two characters go on together.
I understood the destination, and even most of the journey my characters would take to get there. The problem was actually where they began, more with the female protagonist rather than the male. Full disclosure: Jack Bennett pretty much dropped into my head fully formed, very, very passionate about what he was and wasn't, and loathe to change anything about himself.
But Izzy, she was a real issue. I didn't know how to frame her story and tell the reader about her devastating past while keeping the light, comedic tone I really wanted. This is where writing is really hard; as a writer, you try a lot of things and sometimes none of them work.
I tried re-working what I already had. I tried editing. I finally came to the conclusion the entire chapter would have be thrown out and I'd have to start over.
It was totally the right decision. I understand Izzy a lot better now and when I sent it to my mother to read, she said, "oh, I really like her now. I didn't before." My mother is the best beta reader in the world because she is horribly, horribly honest. Like too honest sometimes, but only in the best possible way. She pushes me to be a better writer. She also forces me to look at the logistics of things, and I know to listen to her when she says, "there is no way this would ever happen like that." When she's reading, she's excruciatingly sensitive to problems that jerk her out of the narrative, so if she tells me she doesn't like something, I listen.
The happy ending here is that the rewrite cured the problems with Izzy. She wasn't unlikeable anymore; she wasn't too tough or insensitive or callous. She was finally a character deserving of a happy ending with Jack.
So, without further ado, meet Izzy Dalton:
When Izzy Dalton was eight years old, she proudly boasted to her parents that when she grew up, she was going to be a famous movie star. Mobs of adoring fans, endless red carpets and a never-ending supply of rhinestone sunglasses would be hers. She’d imagined swanning around a glittering blue swimming pool, shaded by palm trees and a legion of Ken doll lookalikes.
And here's Jack Bennett:
“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t put your feet up there.”
Jack Bennett opened the eye closest to the flight attendant and didn’t bother to hide his grimace.
It was her—the same girl who’d already interrupted his nap three times. First, she’d asked if he wanted a refill on his ginger ale. He’d replied, observing that in his experience, drinking more of the beverages the airplanes supplied usually correlated with an above average need to use the airplane facilities and really, he needed more room than that little cramped closet with its black hole of a toilet. But thank you very much for asking.
Now, I'm sure you're dying to read more. And I do plan on putting up a new excerpt every Wednesday until the publication date.
And what is the publication date, you ask? Hopefully, all the moving parts are in place by April 30, but I will definitely keep an update here at the blog.