Yesterday I made things a little harder on myself by reading through the first chapter of Embellishments, in my own words “the best thing I’ve ever written.” Wanted to see if maybe I should send this agent that first chapter instead of the category romance opening.
Upon second read, Embellishments showed its flaws. I still love it, but it needs so much cutting to keep the pace from dragging. I know now how I want the set up chapters to go. I dove into the edits, took out entire scenes (like three of them! out of six!) and found that in some cases a simple sentence served instead of an entire scene. So I cut and cut and got an excellent first chapter.
After all that, which was not for nothing, because I think Embellishments is going to be a great book after I take out the slow bits, I still had to look at my first chapter of Blue Heaven. The agent had mentioned that the opening was a little confusing. I knew I needed to more firmly ground my characters in their setting.
So, did that and also got rid of a few paragraphs of backstory that had somehow escaped Susan’s edits. Susan is a copy editor for our largest Detroit newspaper. She edits the hell out of my pages when we get together. And I love her for it. She probably didn’t miss those bits I took out. I probably stubbornly kept them in. But the agent was very clear. Don’t do backstory, unless it occurs naturally in conversation or a short bit of internal monologue.
So then I had two great first chapters, so which to send?
In the end, I went with the category. I decided to go that way for the same reasons I decided to break into this market in the first place. There’s more room in publishing for a new category writer than there is for a new women’s fiction writer. And I write short books.