Sometimes You Just Need a Do-Over
I love writing beginnings. Finding a way into a story is usually the part I love best. The first chapters of my other books didn’t require a whole lot of revising, so I was unpleasantly surprised when The Do Over, my fourth book with Swoon Reads, gave me so much trouble.
I rewrote the first chapter of The Do-Over three times. I think the reason the beginning of this book caused me so much angst was because I needed to establish what Emelia and Alistair’s relationship was like, so that when Emelia chose Ben over Alistair it would make sense—but that it would also create some lingering doubt that she’d made the right decision. And I had to do this quickly, in order to get to the heart of the story, which is the actual do-over.
I fumbled my way through two first chapters that didn’t work. And here’s why they didn’t: my first kick at it, I started the story way too late. Emelia was already with Ben, she’d made the choice in the past and now she regretted it. But there wasn’t a sense of who Alistair was to her, so it was difficult to care about him or to see why Emelia had made a bad decision—he really didn’t come alive. And in my second kick at it, I started the story too early. I tried to show too much of their relationship and frankly, it was kinda boring and it really slowed the pace down. So, I chopped that chapter entirely and started with what was chapter two, which I then revised. What I ended up with was a lot closer to what I intended.
All this to say, I’ve learned that there is no one way to write a book (oh, if only there was!) and the magic really is in the revision—and in having a great editor who can point out when something isn’t working (shout out to Kat Brzozowski!).