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.