Thursday, February 4, 2010

Richard Peck's Advice on Beginning

Richard says that he ends up throwing away his first chapter before he sends any book in to his publisher. He doesn't plan to do that exactly; it just happens to do the trick.

When I heard him talking about this, I knew immediately what he meant. I tend to tell myself the story in chapter one, anyway. I get to know the characters as they fill out; I plant things that I think I might need later; I describe the setting; in short, I fool around with intent.

So the next time I had a book finished enough to send to Candlewick, I threw out the first chapter and looked at it again. What an improvement!

I lean toward the draconic, anyway, so I love just tossing out 16-20 pages. Sure, things needed to be added and stuff in general smoothed out, but w/out the original chapter, the book started with a bang. And a rather mysterious bang. Who are these people, and why are they where they are?

Those questions got answered little by little rather than all once once in a very static and embarrassingly lumpy first chapter. Interestingly enough, the new first chapter was heavy on dialogue and moved right along while the original opening chapter was light on dialogue and heavy-on-the-page.



  1. That is really interesting. And those lumpy first chapters--sometimes you have to write them to figure things out. Anything to get started. I freak out sometimes and then remember that it is actually legal to rewrite, at least under this administration.

  2. yeah, we'd all better rewrite while we can--who knows how long this administration will last (or will allow it).

    Writing is rewriting is rewriting is rewriting....

  3. PS. Congrats, to ole' modest Ron and all his rewriting, for a starred review upcoming in Horn Book for Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.

    I say, though, isn't this an odd time when the starred reviews are announced a month before they are actually reviewed?

  4. I'd love to hear something about lumpy middles. Any advice for rewriting, rewriting, rewriting those sections?

  5. Not odd for HBook, they always do it this way, or at least they have for as long as I can remember. Maybe to give publishers time to generate ads in advance of pub. dates. Maybe to prevent heart attacks.