Stop Re-Writing Your First Chapter!
This blog post is dedicated to me screaming at myself and my writing pals to stop rewriting that damned first chapter.
Hi, I'm Neka Marie. You may know me as the woman who is constantly screaming her nonsense on twitter or the one who can't dance on TikTok, welcome. I'm also someone who is passionate about writing, acting, modeling, social justice in the form of massive reform to systems, and psychology. I also enjoy a good day on horseback and eating. The things I love to do can go on forever but lets talk about something I hate doing, slowing myself down when drafting.
So, the question is WHEN can you safely and effectively go back and do a massive overhaul on that introductory chapter. There a few times you should do that:
At the end of draft one.
At the end of draft two.
At the end of draft three.
Are you seeing the pattern? You can rewrite whatever the heck you want AFTER each draft. The most effective way to write is by remembering to write through and then go back. I, personally, do not believe in editing until a complete draft is sitting in front of me. But I used to... and it was terrible. Imagine writing 500 words of a project you know is going be about 100k words and stopping to edit those! That pit that just opened up in your stomach, yeah avoid that at all costs.
I do not know a single writer who is immune to the dreaded "Oh wait!" syndrome, but I know that great writers, ones I greatly respect and look up to, have disciplined themselves to have that thought, write it down somewhere, and keep it pushing. Constantly going back every time a new idea pops up in your head will be the death of your story. Don't do it, Dary (it's okay if your name isn't Dary).
What's my personal tip on how to work on discipline?
I cannot believe I'm going to say this but, follow your outline. Before you come to drag me from my home, hear me out! Pantser or not, you need to have a plan. For those of us who have chosen chaos, that means a super rough overview of events in your story before you even think about that first chapter. Basic stuff like "MC enters pub and immediately gets knocked the eff out, LI helps them up, they are now both hornballs for each other but OH NO they are from warring families and now they are in trouble for even being friendly towards each other! DRAMA!" If that's enough to get your creative juices flowing and your fingers typing, do it.
Plotters tend to have entire character arcs planned out with their timelines. Let us envy and hate them from afar. But they ARE right and should say that. Do I think some plotters spend way too long in the planning process, sure. Do I think pantsers need to have less crackhead energy, you bet your sweet bottom!
I made a TikTok talking about this a tiny bit ago and my process for new ideas is as follows:
The Idea is Born - perhaps it came to you in a dream or maybe it's been in some scattered form in your idea notebook for some time! Now is the time to make that baby whole.
Brain Dump - I forget which of my favorite authors used this term but it's amazing. Take literally everything you already know about the idea, stuff you think you want to include and a very specific scene or two and write a stream of consciousness. Let it be messy. If the sentences look like absolute gibberish by the end, so be it.
Write straight through Draft 0 - the concept of "draft 0" is not a universal thing I've come to find out. Draft 0 (to me) means that this is just an evolved and fleshed out form of the brain dump you did earlier. This is going to be messy, it's going to be the ugliest version of your story but it serves a purpose. Even if it consist entirely of short sentences and pages of "come back to later" statements in parenthesis, that's great.
Use Draft 0 to make a rough outline - Yup, we're back to an official outline. Put your pitchfork down immediately! In a way, this method forces you to make two outlines and I promise you will thank yourself for it later in the writing process.
Officially start Draft 1 - GET IT DONE!
This method turned my scattered first book idea into the first manuscript that I knew would get me an agent, get sold, and be on shelves (it's currently being queried, don't drag me).
That's it for this post! If you have any questions that I can answer in future videos or blogs, ask them! You can find me on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook as well!