All Night Tweaking

Disco de 78 RPM
The first chapter reads like a 78 played at 33. Image via Wikipedia

Found an email yesterday, buried deep in my in-box, telling me about a novel-writing competition.  All I had to deliver was the first 2000 words and a one page synopsis with bio, contact details and age. The deadline was midnight yesterday, PST.

As I have an unfinished novel that I recently pulled up, and still like, I decided to ‘go fer it’.  I already have a synopsis and the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, so all I need to do is brush it up, right?


I sat down at my desk at about 1:00pm and finished at about 2:30am.

I tackled the synopsis first.  I wanted it to sing with the playful, magical adventure I’m creating in the book.  I think it was 8 or 9pm when I decided the synopsis worked to my satisfaction, and that was a rewrite.

I’d planned to send chapter 2, which is exactly 2000 words, rather than the first 2000 from chapter 1 (which was 3700) because chapter 2 plays like a fast RnB song, while those first 2000 words in chapter 1 read like an old 78 rpm record (Mercury label? I wish) played at 33.

I went back to the email and the website, and read the competition guidelines again, and again, and again.  “You can submit any passage you want, but we strongly encourage you to submit the first 2000 words…”

Do they know something I don’t know?  Some secret about novel-writing?  Probably, after all they’re running the competition, not me!  All I have is an unfinished novel that when it makes it to you dear reader, I hope it will tantalize and delight, tease and torment, while it takes you on a madcap journey orchestrated by a witch-in-training who casts sloppy spells that provide enough comedic elements to make you laugh till you cry. Though not mature, it’s definitely not for children!

“…strongly advise you to send the first 200o words.”  So I did. After I tweaked till, like I said, 2:30am.

I knew it wasn’t really ready to go.  It was still clumsy, and something was missing.  The state of mind of my protagonist in those opening paragraphs was still not clearly presented, though it does become clearer as the chapter progresses.   The thing that surprises me is, with the synopsis, the seed of the novel is in those first 2000 words in a way it isn’t in the second chapter.  Even the four main characters are present, in various forms, and interact with one another, yet they don’t know that’s what’s happening. So those first 2000 words really are important – it was the other 1700 from chapter one that I didn’t need!

I clicked the send button. It was 2:23 AM.

…to be continued.


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7 thoughts on “All Night Tweaking

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  1. Start the novel with those good 2000 words from Chapter Two. Any necessary information from the first chapter can appear later, and the rest can go bye-bye. Editors, publishers, agents, and even readers don’t want to wait for the good part. It needs to all be good part. Good luck in the contest!

    1. Thanks Michael. Thanks for your comment. The 2000 words I ended up with as chapter 1 are pretty good. 🙂 I think they ARE a good part or I wouldn’t have ended up tweaking them this afternoon! It’s getting closer to where it should be. Although chapter 2 reads really well, and is also a good part 🙂 it contains a lot of stuff that I think is better introduced later. It’s actually action that happens before the scene in chapter 1, so is a kind of reflective flashback. Breaks the sequential narrative format.

      Chapter 1 tells the reader right up front that this is going to be a magical mystery tour. I also like the ending I chose. I got rid of all the unnecessary crap when I cut 1700 words! Chapter 2 then tells the reader that there’s a very colorful character here who’s going to add a comical element and propel the story.

      Chapter 1 has enough to engage the reader, chapter 2 reads so fast they’ll be hooked by the time they get to chapter 3. I gonna junk my current chapter 3 and write another one.

      Wanna read it?

  2. You haven’t read it Jenn. The first chapter is good now that I’ve tweaked it! I suppose I could switch them round, and make the current chapter 2, chapter 1, but I’m not junking that first chapter!

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