Starting with Action…

When I was workshopping Twenty-Five on TNBW, several reviewers told me I needed to delete the opening scene and jump straight into the action.  So many reviewers in fact, that eventually I broke down and listened to them.  And I didn’t have second doubts about following that advice until I got my rejection from Scott Eagan.  He said that there was a lack of character development.  I wondered at the time if my character development suffered because I deleted the opening scene.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve read 13 books since the start of the year.  And not a single one of them starts off going straight into the action.  Granted, one is Jane Austen and no books from the early nineteenth century started with action (at least none that I’ve read), but the other 12 are all late twentieth or twenty-first century.  So….  My thoughts on that are that maybe I don’t need to start with action immediately.  Maybe that’s just a rule they throw out in writing workshops and on agent blogs because it sounds great in theory and because books that do it well, do it great.  But it doesn’t make sense for my romance novel which is based around the characters and not around what happens.

I took a couple days and re-read my MS.  Again.  And I really noticed the lack of character development at the beginning.  I was shocked, honestly.  I never thought that was a problem I had.  I assumed the biggest problem with Twenty-Five was that the plot wasn’t unique enough, which is still a problem when it comes to writing the query, but I actually think it kinda works for this book.  Anyways, my point was, it looks like you can’t listen to everything reviewers say.  Now, I’m not stupid or vapid or naive enough to believe that if I add that scene back in it’s going to magically fix my character development problem.  The opening scene is going to need a lot of editing and the action scene is going to need a lot of editing to make it work with the opening.  It’s going to be a lot of work.  But I believe in this book.  And I know I’ve said that a million times.  But I do.  So I’m going to do the work and I’m actually kind of excited about it.  It kind of makes me sick at the same time, but I’m going to focus on the excitement.

7 thoughts on “Starting with Action…

  1. You may already be aware of this idea, but I thought I would toss it your way anyway: infuse the character development into the action. Describe the action in such a way that it’s not just about the fact that she picked up a box, but it’s about her hating the fact that she’s picking up a box. For example:

    Version A: She lifted the box from the floor and carried it quickly to the shelf.

    Version B: Her lips puckered with distaste as she lifted the box from the floor, her hands curling so that only the tips of her fingers touched the cardboard. Quickly, she tottered to the shelf and stuck the box in its place, facing away from the dust and holding her breath.

    How much did we learn about this character in Version A versus Version B? It’s an action, but the way that action is described can tell us so much about that character.

    I got this technique from reading Sol Stein’s books: “How to Grow a Novel” and “Stein on Writing”. If you haven’t read them, I totally recommend them. They do have a lot of similar content between them, but there are enough differences to make it worth having both if you’re inclined to spend $30 on books rather than $15. They are packed with practical information that you can use immediately to improve your writing. They are fantastic and they have helped my writing grow tremendously just by reading them.

    1. I used your tip when I edited my chapter. I knew if was what I had to do, but hadn’t really thought about it like that. I think the chapter is better now. Thanks!

  2. Rach, I’m glad you’re not giving up on Twenty-Five! I think you have the right idea of taking each reviewers advice with a grain of salt. Good luck making revisions!
    🙂 Ang

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