Monday, 22 February 2010

The Opening Chapter by Marie-Louise Jensen

I love beginning a new novel. Partly because I love that first chapter. By the time I get to write it down, I've usually been shaping it in my head for months and months and I know exactly how I want it to be. So the writing process is usually satisfyingly quick. Even if it does include getting up at dawn the following day to make changes that have come into my head in the night.
But I also love the first chapter because it's such a moment of possibilities. It's the time when the story is in my head in a full colour, digital, high definition, 4D version. I see all its potential and, as yet, none of the pitfalls and problems that will inevitably surface and leave me sitting staring in frustration at the computer screen. At this point I can still tell myself it's going to be better than anything I've written so far.
Once I'm ten chapters in, I will, of course, still be enjoying myself. I'll be thoroughly involved in the story. But I'll have red notes scattered throughout the manuscript, reminding me to 'rewrite this bit' or 'make motivation stronger' and so on at some later stage. A slight sense of dissatisfaction will have crept in. Once again, I won't have fully succeeded in tranfering my vision to paper (or screen) in the way I first saw it. Instead of 21st century graphics, my dread is it may end up looking like one of those early colour films where it looked like they'd still filmed in black and white and then splashed the colour on afterwards, all blurry round the edgs.
This is the sixth manuscript I've worked on (two are still works in progress) so I'm getting familiar with the mental and emotional process of my writing. I'm in the Viking era for the third time, but this time it's a very different sort of main character to any I've worked with before. She's difficult, willful and rebellious, and she has a tragedy ahead of her.
At the moment, just two-and-a-half chapters into the story, I still see it all as I want it. So I'm still very excited and happy, cocooned in the belief that THIS time...


Katherine Langrish said...

You make me feel so impatient for the moment when I too once again begin on page one, chapter 1!

And the book sounds great.

Stroppy Author said...

Yes, me too - wanted to give up on all I'm doing (which is dreary) and start something new. Damn it, have to persist with this stuff. Good luck capturing the magic that flits just out of reach.

Brian Keaney said...

What about the moment long before the opening chapter when the story first becomes real in your head? When you realise that you are definitely going to write this and you see it stretching before you like a glittering road leading to somewhere you've always wanted to be? That's my favourite bit.

Yunaleska said...

I'm really excited about your current wip! I'm sure it'll be as fab as the others.

I'm about to embark on rewriting a chapter one. I'm looking forward to it.