22 April 2012, Development - First Scene
Introduction: I realized that I need to introduce this blog a little. I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. The working title was Daemon, and this was my 21st novel. Over the last year, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
If you haven't guessed yet, I've left this up because I plan to use it in the future as we move through development. The steps in making and using a character in a novel are as follows:
1. Development of the character (history, description, personality, etc.)
2. Revelation of the character (within the novel, show don't tell)
a. Description of the character - introduction
b. Voice of the character
c. Continuing revelation by showing
In a classical plot (and in most of my novels) you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a protagonist's helper. If you develop these three characters for a novel, the plot will naturally fall out of the development of the characters.
Once you have their attention with a teaser or a blurb, now they are going to check out your novel. When they go to Amazon or to any other bookseller, they will see the "Look Inside" feature, and they will look inside. Usually, the look inside will give them the first through as much as the third chapter. If they like what they see, they will purchase your book, and you will have a new fan.
The real problem is what if they don't like what they see. Once you have a novel in print, it is a little to late to make changes. The big deal happened way back in time when you originally wrote your novel. The big point here is that I hope you took this into consideration back then.
The first chapter and the first scene are the make or break parts of a novel. You might have a sucky novel, but if the first chapter and first scene are well done, people will pick up and read your novel. Now, I have to say, it is very odd to have a great first chapter/scene and a terrible novel, but it could happen.
In the normal process of publishing a novel, a publisher will judge your novel worthy of being published and attracting readers. If the first scene/chapter isn't any good, the publisher will usually not want it or the publisher will insist that you rewrite it to something acceptable. In general, it is difficult to have a regularly published novel with a bad first scene/chapter. You can see this is entirely possible with an indie novel.
Since an indie novel doesn't go through the usual publication process, there is some chance that the first scene/chapter sucks and will not attract readers. Let's put it this way, I've read many indie "Look Insides" that are terrible. If the first part of the book is poorly written, the rest of the book will likely be poorly written, plus, the first few chapters are supposed to be the best. Look, this isn't just a problem for indie writers--it is a problem for every writer. The difference is that regularly published writers have the benefit of a publisher and an editor. These two will never let a weak first scene/chapter into the marketplace. If they do, they deserve to not have the book be successful.
I'll talk about characteristics that make a bad first scene/chapter tomorrow.
I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.