Shit happens. But, it never seems to happen to my books half as frequently as when I send a sneak preview to my newsletter subscribers. Last Friday, I sent out my end of month issue about the value of a good first sentence. The hook. By Sunday, I'd realized the first line I'd sent from The Joy Thief had to go. Well, not just it. Most of the first chapter, which I'd stared at again and again for days. Really, since I started revising the book.
No one wants to write a bad book. That's literally on no writer's to-do list.
But, there's something about this book that has had me questioning both the story and my own writing abilities since I started it. I have questioned whether or not there is a real story there. I think there is, but I've had a lot of trouble digging down to the heart of it in a way that works.
Let me be clear, my spouse thinks it's a great book.
I'm the one having a problem with it. This book is perhaps my equivalent of Carrie.
Stephen King hated that book when he first wrote it. His wife, however, saw something special in it. She first found the pages crumpled in the garbage. After she smoothed them out and read them, she told Stephen that the book was worth fighting for.
She was right.
My spouse has told me the same about The Joy Thief. When its merits are broken down, I get it. The book is worth it. It's not the knock-down-drag-em-out story that The Taming and Shadowboxer are. It's deeper. Or at least it is once you get past chapters 1 and 2.
And there is the heart of my problem on Sunday.
Whether or not the first line is good, I have to get the reader through the first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. They have to want to read chapter 2 and 3 and 4 and never stop reading. Only, I barely wanted to keep reading past chapter 1. So, why would anyone else?
It's at this point that I started to wonder (again) if I was just beating a dead horse. Maybe it's not the story, maybe it's me. Maybe I'm just a bad writer.
You know, the usual cycle we writers go through when a book just isn't coming together.
I talked out my problem with my spouse. Then, I went a few rounds with my characters, poking and prodding at them until they gave up and suggested a couple changes. That's when I figured out that I actually do suck. Or, rather, I had stuff in chapter 1 that no one would ever care about. Not me, not the reader, not even my characters. It had to go.
Once I got rid of the drivel, chapters 1 and 2 came into focus in a way they never had before. I suddenly had the really great hook I'd been looking for.
"It was funny how a day could turn on you."
Now, that's a hook to make you want to read more.
If you want to know when book 3, The Joy Thief, goes up for presale, the easiest way to do that is to subscribe to my mailing list. You'll find out before anyone else and score yourself some other great exclusives in the process.