I considered bumping last year's thread on this subject, but that was all about starting with the weather and I didn't want to highjack it. So anyway . . . I've returned from my first face-to-face writer's group meeting. One of my fellow members said the first few pages of my WIP weren't necessary and I should start at nearly the end of the first chapter instead. The other one agreed, "Oh, yes, your story starts where she said, at that later point," but proceeded to say nice things about the material that would have to be cut if I did change the beginning. I'm not averse to looking at it again if there really is a problem. Trouble is, I had the same material critiqued at a writers' conference a year or two ago by a four-member panel of published authors and a New York agent, and they all said they liked it, I had a good, confident voice, it was a fine beginning. The agent even said that if the book were done, he would have requested the full ms on the strength of it. Just because my critiquers today are struggling, unpublished writers just like me doesn't mean they might not speak for a typical reader. And just because my panel were all pros doesn't mean they do. But the opposite could be true as well. So whom do I believe? My first impulse is to be a good girl, cut those first pages out to make my group happy, and hope for the best. But I'd be removing material that's thematic for the entire novel. In fact, I intend(ed) to repeat the present first line as the next-to-last line of the story, with some ironic inversion. Moreover, there's info about the MC and the setting that I want readers to know from the beginning, the sort of thing that would naturally be talked about in that context and no other. How the dickens can I load it into succeeding chapters without resorting to infodumps, reminiscences, and flashbacks? It needs to be in there ASAP, because what comes after assumes that the characters and the reader knows "all that" already. Happily, I have other work to do that I need daylight for, so I'm going to control myself and make no changes right away.