The Second Chapter

by | February 24, 2016 | General | 6 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

If you’re struggling with your writing, I feel ya. Family drama of ludicrous proportions has stolen my ability to write. (So much for the theory that one must suffer for art.)(Hey, that sounds like next month’s blog entry. Hmmm.) Finally, I was able to drag a first chapter out of myself, but it kicked and screamed the entire way, digging it’s claws into the ground. It’s a mess, but at this point I’ve decided to leave it be and circle back to it when the rest of the piece is done.

Which leads me to the second chapter. First chapters are difficult, but second chapters have challenges. If you’re writing multiple POVs, do you keep your reader in the same POV for one more chapter to acclimate them better to the world you’ve created for your characters, or do you switch to a “meanwhile, back at the ranch” scene? Do you stay with the same POV character or introduce new ones? I’ve read novels with both approaches. If I’m really invested in the first chapter, I get grumpy when I’m unceremoniously escorted out of a setting and given a bunch of yahoos to follow from then on.  I keep waiting for the writer to get back to the “real” story. Sometimes, they never do, and then I’m really angry. But should you care about reader expectations? Or should you just tell your story? That’s a decision that’s up to you. As a reader though, I’m asking you to give me something in the new setting or characters that’s as or even more compelling than your opening chapter so I lose that grumpy feeling quickly.

If you’re writing a linear story with a single POV, then your next move is to follow your character on their journey.   It sounds easy,  but even that presents a quandary. Do you help anchor your reader by starting them off in the setting you established in the first chapter, or do you heed the advice to start a scene in the middle of action and plunk your character into a new setting?

This is what I’m struggling with.  The first chapter was hard, and this second one isn’t coming any easier. While I suspect that much of my fretting has to do with many things other than the story I’m trying to write, it’s still effectively blocking me from moving on. I’m trying to convince myself that like the first chapter, I should simply throw whatever down to get on with it and take care of the mess when I’m done writing the first draft.

If chapter three is like this, I won’t give up, but maybe instead of not writing because I can’t seem to do it, maybe I’ll not write because I think it’s better to put it aside for a while.

Share your writer’s block woes with me. You’ll get tons of sympathy.

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at:


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    I've sometimes found that the first chapter just flows, because it feels like a short story. Then in the second chapter, I have to face the fact that this is going to be a novel, darn it, and I've got to do a lot more work than I'd bargained for.

    But I find it very hard to just let a book go.

  2. Kathleen Bradean

    The second chapet is where reality sets in, isn't it?

  3. Jean Roberta

    Heh. I've been told that reality sets in with a second child. (I never got that far.)Have you tried writing an outline? That might help prevent the frustration of writing a second, then a third chapter, then deciding they all belong in the circular file.

  4. Kathleen Bradean

    Jean – when I wrote the first novel in this series, I used an outline for the first time as an experiment. I found out it isn't for me. I have a terrible habit of writing far more than I ever use, so that doesn't bother me. I know my problems. I can't settle on a central conflict. Plus, all my Machiavellian plotting power has been put to use in this family drama. (which will resolve eventually) (hopefully)

  5. Jean Roberta

    Your Machiavellian plotting power would probably help me with my own family drama. (I thought this show had more-or-less ended since I no longer have direct contact with blood relatives, but there is still a financial legacy from my parents which has been distributed in installments, the latest of which is indefinitely delayed for reasons that haven't been made clear to me.) Well, supposedly, real-life drama can inspire the writing.

  6. Kathleen Bradean

    While I call it plotting, it's really working through what I know of the bad actors in this drama, predicting what they may do next, and presenting my scenarios to the rest of the family so we can decide what defensive moves to make. I have been incredibly accurate. That hasn't stopped horrible things from being done, but it has kept them from being worse.

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