After starting The Call I left the job I had held for 10 years and the agency that had been a home to me for even longer to move to North Carolina. I took a new position as an Executive Director of a Public Health collaboration and worked away for two more years in spare minutes of time on the book. Over and over I reread and edited. I lost my position due to the state budget cuts a year ago. That gave me time to finish the work and as I broke the book into parts, at some point I did not reread Part One as frequently. Yet every time I did I had a nagging little doubt about Chapter One which contained a flashback and a lot of character introduction.
They say that your first chapter is your most important, your first sentence the most critical. The reader has to be drawn in and I have a two page Prologue that I hope entices the reader to go deeper. But Chapter One is still pretty critical, and for more than the reader. Perhaps I should say it is vital to whether you will ever have a reader. Why? If you do get to send a part of the book to an agent or publisher the most I have ever seen that you can send with your query letter is the first fifty pages. Often you can send ten pages or less, or only a synopsis. They have to be grabbed and they read lots and lots of ‘good’ books. To be published you have to be better than just good, especially Chapter One. The more I moved toward queries and submissions the more that nagging doubt about the flashback became deeper.
Barely had my writing partner, William Walton, read the first chapter of the ‘draft review’ book, but the same concern about it struck him as well. I don’t know how we had never discussed it, maybe I just didn’t want to change that beginning chapter. I had a kind of attachment to it. When I finished it, getting it on paper made me believe that someday my book would exist. And by the time I finished Chapter Fourteen and the Epilogue I wanted to be done! So it was strange that when he told me I had been over-ambitious in introducing so many characters, and that the flashback slowed down the pace of excitement I had created by the Prologue, I felt relieved. You can never fix something you won’t admit is there. That nagging doubt was there, real and had to be dealt with. So…..
Chapters One and Two have been rewritten! Already. In fact the two copies I was mailing out got revised before I even sent them! I now feel so much better about Chapter One…though cutting out the flashback and putting the info it conveyed and the characters into Two slowed that Chapter very slightly, the gains for One are worth it. And Two is fine.
Another learning experience, when in doubt over something don’t think you are done…Doubts are there for a reason. I just so wanted to be done. But now I am content with the revision. Calm. I am even okay with waiting to hear from the other reviewers. Their feedback is just the next hurtle. Acknowledging the ‘nagging doubt’ was a much bigger obstacle. Hidden and unvoiced it could have derailed my efforts to be published. Revising and removing it was amazingly easier than I thought.