I entered two of my stories in BookEnds first 100-word Romantic Suspense contest. Sending the first one gave me palpitations. The second had me reaching for my inhaler. I love what I write until I have to share it with someone else. Then… I’m not so confident.
So… the first 100 words… entering this contest made me realize how much lead-in I usually have. My current WIP, the one I’m doing for the Book-in-a-week, had about three paragraphs I thought were vital to the opening of the story. When I highlighted the first 100 words to submit to this contest, I realized they did nothing to grip a reader. They tell important details, they’re vital to the story. But they’re in the wrong place.
My wonderful and amazingly supportive critique partner, Linda Ford, made a logical suggestion – start with the action. I balked at first. The ‘action’ in this opening is a car-jacking, but that happens after I set up the status quo. It happens halfway down the first single-spaced page. How would a reader feel anchored in my story if I begin with something from way down there?
How about if the reader isn’t given a chance to feel anchored but rather is gripped by the first few words and willingly taken along for the ride, always wanting to know what’s happening and seeing when s/he keeps reading that the answers are all provided… though not before other questions are created.
I hope that’s what I’ve done. I don’t see a chance of winning the contest – some of those entries are phenomenal. But I entered. I’ve leaped the first hurdle of fear. And I’ve learned tons by revising the opening until those first 100 words were as tight and as gripping as they could be for the story I wanted to tell.
I’m not new to revisions. With my second completed, it took a while but I realized my first chapter didn’t work. Well, part of it did. The other part? Not so much. How did I fix it? I lopped off the first 12 pages. Just like that. I cut them off without second thought. They were the dead limb drawing the life force from the rest of the body. The story grew so much stronger after I deleted them… and was requested by an agent at my dream agency. Twice. Alas…
I know I still have a lot to learn, but being honest with myself about my own work has been the biggest and most important lesson of all.
When you write, and when you revise, do you think you’re as hard on the work as you should be? Or are you intimidated by the prospect of cutting the precious words you labored for hours to put on the page?