View Full Version : Did your first chapter change?

Saint Fool
12-28-2008, 07:14 PM
I've been reading Albert Zuckerman's Writing the Block Buster Novel. (Great book, by the way.) He uses Ken Follett's The Man From St. Petersburg throughout the book including examples of the four outlines Follett used in developing the plot. In each outline, the opening chapter changes.

I've come to the end of the first draft of my WIP and realize that the first chapter is actually the second or third because the reader needs to get a sense of my MC before disaster strikes.

So ... how many of you ended up changing the first chapter once you'd finished the first draft?

12-28-2008, 07:17 PM
It's interesting that you want to add material *in front* of the the place where the story begins. Usually that's the part that gets cut in later versions, so that the book starts where the story actually starts.

12-28-2008, 07:19 PM
Yes! I sent my book to a fellow author and his first email back was, "You begin too fast. Slow down and rewrite the first chapter or add a prologue or better still begin a new 1st chapter. I did as advised. His observation made al the difference.

Karen Duvall
12-28-2008, 07:20 PM
I think it's pretty natural to change a first chapter after the first draft is written because now that the story's done, the author knows so much more about the characters and the plot. I switched the 1st and 2nd chapters around on one book, added more backstory to the first chapter of another book, and just changed the first page of the first chapter in another book. Everyone has different reasons for changing their first chapter, but I think the point of the change is that you know more about the story after you've finished than you did when you started.

12-28-2008, 07:37 PM
For Three Days to Dead, my first chapter didn't change (save some minor editing). Seven books ago, with my very first novel, I can't tell you how many times I changed the first chapter.

12-28-2008, 07:42 PM
I don't do drafts, so my first chapters don't change...at first.

Should I redo a work years later when my style has changed, THEN the first chapter might change, but not in the basic details. I start a story where I think it should start; so I'd probably keep the same basic beginning but I might definitely make it better.

The exception is when I add a prologue. I did that with one of my novels where the story pretty much started out with a couple of people goofing off in a house. The prologue is a "flashback" prologue directly related to the story and clarifying things that took place years before so that the current-day plot would happen. (No, it's not an infodump. It's action just like the rest of the story.) So in that case the very beginning of the story changed, to add a new beginning, but the first chapter was still intact (albeit redone).

Mr Flibble
12-28-2008, 07:49 PM
Only about a bazillion times :D

Mind you I was still beginning then, it took a while before I'd learnt enough about writing to really get a handle on it.

12-28-2008, 07:55 PM
My first chapter has changed here and there as I learned more about the characters as the story progressed.

I think the important thing is that you be willing to make changes if they are needed.

Saint Fool
12-28-2008, 07:56 PM
It's interesting that you want to add material *in front* of the the place where the story begins. Usually that's the part that gets cut in later versions, so that the book starts where the story actually starts.

Oddly enough, the new opening is where the story actually starts. I just didn't see it until the story was done.

12-28-2008, 08:15 PM
My first chapter is still my first chapter. I've rewritten it twice, but the same stuff happens. So I chose "other". It was hardly great. But it's coming along.

12-29-2008, 12:15 AM
I answered for the WIP that's nearest to being up to manuscript standard. "Found a better one..." etc.

I didn't think the first chapter set the scene very well; it read like 'normal' YA as opposed to something more creepy, closer to urban fantasy.

So I introduced two of the other main characters first off, showed them having a conversation which hints at what they are, before going back to another female MC living her life, just before she meets the...well, the creepy peeps. :) So the entire chapter wasn't changed; I added a couple of pages right at the very beginning.

12-29-2008, 12:45 AM
What happens in my first chapter is the same, but I did rewrite it. I'm pretty horrible with openings. That's what beta readers are for. :)

Matera the Mad
12-29-2008, 01:11 AM
Do 500 rewrites count as a change?

Claudia Gray
12-29-2008, 02:37 AM
The first chapters of my first and third books changed dramatically. The first chapter of my second book didn't change a bit; I suspect the fourth is going to go the same way. As for the potential fifth book I've been tinkering with, that first chapter has already undergone some transformation and will be changing some before I shop it around.

In short, I think this happens a lot, though not invariably.

12-29-2008, 02:46 AM
Yes. I have two MC's and changed the 1st chapter to focus on a different one than originally intended because she had a stronger hook in her story.

12-29-2008, 02:49 AM
I wrote my first chapter about midway through writing the book.

12-29-2008, 04:31 AM
So ... how many of you ended up changing the first chapter once you'd finished the first draft?
All my changes to the first chapter happen during the first draft so, no, I have to say it stayed exactly the same.

Tanya Egan Gibson
12-29-2008, 08:07 AM
I rewrote it many times, and after the sale my editor at Dutton suggested I write a new opening. I ended up starting the book completely differently, adding two new chapters which, among other things, set the scene of my novel far more effectively, I think, than anything I'd written prior to that. (Good editors are good. Very good. Priceless.)

12-29-2008, 06:50 PM
I changed the first chapter of my first novel because the rest of the book was so out there, but the beginning was just so boring. Nothing happened and so I added a piece and took out a substantial amount of the chapter so I get to te action quicker. As for my other novel, it's staying like it is.

Sean D. Schaffer
12-29-2008, 06:56 PM
My original first chapter eventually became what is now my third chapter, although I've updated it a lot since writing it for the very first time. It works much better the way I have it written now, the writing is tighter and the story itself is much more believable.

Ironically, I've trunked the majority of the important parts of the remainder of the story, in favor of re-writing the entire darned thing from scratch. Also, I'm not trying so hard to produce outstanding writing, because I know that if I do so, I end up with inferior workmanship. :(

But back to the first chapter. The original started in a battle scene, with a flagship blowing up. Now, there's a lot more build-up to this event, and the way I told the chapter this time, the explosion has a much more vivid impact. I think what I've accomplished in this new version is far superior to the first version. :)

12-29-2008, 07:16 PM
I cut 15,000 words off the top and restructured the first 7 chapters. Was that enough change for you? ;)

12-29-2008, 07:23 PM
My original first chapter became my second chapter.

Saint Fool
12-29-2008, 08:24 PM
Thanks for all the replies.

Travis J. Smith
12-29-2008, 11:51 PM
I've added multiple chapters in front of the original first chapter, so that's definitely a yes for me.

12-30-2008, 01:26 AM
My first chapter has stayed the same, save for some minor editing and word choice changes. I've made a lot more changes in subsequent chapters, though.

12-30-2008, 01:30 AM
My first chapter changed a great deal, as did the story!

12-30-2008, 01:43 AM
Yup. I've rewritten the beginning once, the middle once, and the ending thrice.

I actually rewrote them in this order:

Ending (1)
Ending (2)

So everything's been up in the air at some point.

12-30-2008, 03:39 AM
I have completely wrote a new first chapter. It, to me made my novel better, but who knows, I have been wrong before.

Life is what happens, while you're busy making other plans. -- John Lennon

12-30-2008, 04:38 PM
The first chapter of my novel in the first draft was later moved to chapter 3. (And two years later that chapter was eliminated in favor of a different and stronger scene.)

The new first chapter had an introductory paragraph of sorts which I decided I hated hated hated and I recall writing a new version on Christmas day, 2007. That chapter went through numerous rewrites (after postings in SYW) and after being shared with two beta readers a few months ago.

Now, today, December 30, 2008, I am once again rewriting that first chapter (and two subsequent chapters). It's time to finish this thing and this is the last week I'm going to revise it. I'm through.


12-30-2008, 07:49 PM
If any chapter changes in my completed MS, it's usually the first one. But I do so much editing BEFORE I'm done that it usually happens before that. With my WIP I deleted one opening, wrote a new one, and ended up using my old opening later on for another scene in another context. But it is usually the first chapter that changes the most drastically.

12-30-2008, 07:55 PM
It's interesting that you want to add material *in front* of the the place where the story begins. Usually that's the part that gets cut in later versions, so that the book starts where the story actually starts.

I've found The add in front move solves a lot of problems with stories that start off with a bit too much complexity. Lately I've been skipping the add in front and just started as simply as I possibly can.

12-30-2008, 09:26 PM
Removed the intro from the first chapter, but it basically remained the same except for extensive editing. Re-edited and re-wrote my drafts many times. Lost count.

But kept the first chapters basically intact.

01-02-2009, 06:54 AM
My finished MS I sat down, wrote the first chapter and barring minor editing never really messed with it much....... however my WIP now I think I have rewritten and re started the first chapter 27 times seriously.


01-02-2009, 07:47 AM
I like the opening of my WIP, but like Citymouse, I might be starting too fast.

In another WIP, I got to Chapter 5 and realized this should be where the story starts. Chapters 1-4 were pushed to later.

01-02-2009, 04:02 PM
Congratulation, Saint Fool, on getting Draft Zero finished, and thanks for the recommendation. I'd been looking for something good that shows how to use an outline.

01-20-2009, 10:52 PM
I've changed mine at least three times. The first time was when I realised my original one sucked and wasn't suitable at drawing readers in at all. Then I redid it to what it more or less is now, but with a few changes. An agent with my full recommended I edit some stuff, which I've now done, and sent to her with the rest of the chapters. Fingers crossed she likes it!