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Which was the hardest chapter to write

  1. Chapter 1

    6 vote(s)
    35.3%
  2. Intervening Chapters

    9 vote(s)
    52.9%
  3. Final Chapter

    2 vote(s)
    11.8%
  4. Conclusion

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    The hardest chapter(s) you ever wrote and why.

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Richach, Aug 14, 2020.

    Writing different chapters present different challenges. Chapter 1 and concluding chapters can present unique challenges for sure.

    I would like to know your views on different chapters that you have either read or written and what challenges were presented and overcome. I will get the ball rolling and forgive me, I am going to use an established author as an example as I don't want to be accused of pumping myself and my WIP up! I will add my own experiences as the thread develops - promise!

    Yes, I do like to make a promise to the reader in the first chapter so that they have some idea of what to expect. Something Markus Zusack does extremley well in The Book Theif, although he is somewhat of a master. Ofcourse he was able to deliver on his promises and then some, which made for a very satisfying read in my opinion. He made many promises in the 1st Chapter and then throughout the book. At first I thought he has told me what was going to happen, but ofcourse his delivery was sublime. Very bold, very brave. He took a risk and it definatley paid off.

    Exert from chp 1 - Book Theif:

    'It's just a small story really, about, among other things:

    • a girl
    • some words
    • an accordianist
    • some fanatical Germans
    • a Jewsish fist fighter
    • and quite alot of theivery


    Zusac goes on to tell the story of the above. The narrator is death and this gives a perculiar and strangley a very sweet and at times stirring delivery of the story.

    Anyway, enough about him. What about us! What do we do to deliver the 1st chapter or the 4th. The last chapter or the conclusion? What techniques work, what things must be included? Some examples maybe:

    • Research
    • Planning
    • Plotting
    • Introducing characters
    • World building
    • Backstory (yes it is important - in the right measure)
    • Telling of the story
    The list goes on, and please feel welcome to add to it. What I am really interested to know is how do you make all of these things work together - as a chapter. Possibly most importantly, the chapters that you struggle(d) with would be most enlightening.

     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, that's easy for me. The opening. Knowing where to start a story is not easy for me. In fact, my original opening chapter got cut to only one scene, and is now my second chapter's opening scene instead.

    My first chapter is now a brand-new Prologue. I didn't actually write it until I'd received my first tranche of beta readers' feedback. All of these readers let me know that there was something missing. They got diverted by what I now call an 'unnecessary mystery' and went off down the wrong track—and it took some of them nearly all the way through the entire story to figure it out. That gap has now been filled with my Prologue, which has been well received with new beta readers—so I know I've solved the original problem. My Prologue is a mini-story in itself, which sets up the underlying conflict of the story the way my original opener didn't. Now it launches my story in the right direction.

    Here's the important thing. I did not attempt to re-write the beginning till I'd finished the whole story. You really do need to see the whole product before you can make accurate determinations about any part of it. That's why I always discourage excessive tinkering while writing. Obviously keep the opener in mind, but resist the urge to tinker it to perfection at this stage.

    The opener, no matter how catchy or clever it might originally appear, launches your story in a particular direction. If that direction or focus or theme changes as you write your story, even a little bit—and if you are a beginner, it very likely will—you will need a whole new opener. Otherwise the reader will be reading an entire book based on a misdirection at the start.

    By all means, correct SPAG errors if you catch them while re-reading what you've done so far. But DON'T labour too long getting the opener 'just right,' because you won't know till you reach The End what the right opener should actually be.

    It might turn out that your original opener is fine, with a few tweaks. Or, like me, you might discover that you need a whole new approach. (In my case, the facts of the story didn't change. What changed was how I portrayed them.)

    There are folks who tinker endlessly, saying, 'But I want to get the opener just right, so I don't waste time going back over it again.'

    I say, 'It won't take you any more time to change your opener AFTER you reach The End than it does now.' The difference is, by then you'll know exactly what your opener should be.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  3. Astrea

    Astrea Member

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    One of the things I learned by attending week long writing conferences is that everyone has to approach it in their own way. There were really famous people who attended The Santa Barbara Writers Conference. They had a lot of good advice. Bottom line, it is your story. Do it the way that works for you. That amounts to learning as you go.

    The hardest first chapter I ever wrote was about the crimes my brother committed. The reason it was so hard was because I had to relive the events as I knew them to be. I had to figure out what to include and what to leave out.
     
  4. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    intervening chapters for me.
    I visualize the main points and when I draft, I draft the main points... but the hardest chapter for me is what goes on between those main points and how do i write them so that they contribute to the main points.
     
  5. Cloudymoon

    Cloudymoon Member

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    For me it's the two or three chapters at the end of the middle - just before the 'final conflict/climax' gets going in Act III. It's difficult to keep the readers interest.
     
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  6. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I would say, in general, The opening of a book is often difficult. You have to figure out how to start. You likely haven't found a voice yet. You're not in the flow of the story yet. It can be very difficult. The most difficult is going to depend on what you're writing. On my thriller I'm bringing close to final draft, the hardest chapter to write was the climax. It involves a brutal fight to the death, and I'd never written anything like that. Action of that sort proved more difficult than anything else in the book beginning to end.
     
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  7. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends. Beginnings are rough for me because I write general fiction and with genre there's a lot of expectations giving you just the amount of limitatons to get you started. Not so with general, you can start with anything - mood, character, setting, mystery anything.
    But I don't overthink beginnings like I do other chapters because I know they'll be changed by the time the ending is done. It's those tricky chapters - like before or after a new change. Then you're wondering about the tone, the transition, the jump ahead in time, the domino effect like if I get rid of this character how does it effect the whole? if my character does this what's the ripple effect? Like right now in my first draft a shooting took place during filming but I'm not sure I can include it because the ripple effect isn't good enough. I'm really dragging my feet over this last turning point in the novel. Compared to it the beginning was a breeze.
     
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  8. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Contributor Contributor

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    Like Jannert I discovered I couldn't truly have a solid beginning until I had an ending. For me the in between chapters are the hardest to write because it makes me compile all the notes I've been making and stuff the scattered scenes in like I know where they go. And sometimes the stuff from the second book gets tossed in because it fits better in the first one. It's a challenge and sometimes it wins for a few days until I take control again and go forward. I try to keep as much momentum going as I can, but sometimes I hit a wall or the story tries going a different way when it needs to be something specific. The meandering of the middle bits is my toughest part.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First chapter definitely. And through edits I almost always ditch the original opening and pull something from chapter 2 or 3. I'll just be reviewing, read a passage, and be like, yup, that's the opening right there! Happens every time. Now I just glance over the opening and wait for the eureka moment. Delete delete delete after that.

    My theory is that after you get into chapter 2 or 3 you're already into the story and not trying to introduce things, layer backstory, sound witty, impress an agent... it's just there in established glory and doing its job. Suddenly everything you wrote before it sounds like affected crap.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    That is EXACTLY it! At least how I experienced the issue. :)
     
  11. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    A lot of this is trial and error. You have to get enough miles on the clock so that you can judge what is and isn't working. It also seems that even after a long time crafting something you are still pretty much starting over with the next phase or project, all be it with a little more experience.

    My first chapter has been written so many times that in the end, I became rather proud of it. I never thought that the following chapters would be as hard as the first. In the main, they have kind of flowed but I just can't have 14 or so chapters in the middle that are not functional. They each have to pull their weight. Right now it is chapter 4 that is causing me huge difficulty, but I know I will figure it out somehow.

    Tell me it gets easier!
     
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  12. Davi Mai

    Davi Mai Banned

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    My last chapters are always the hardest. I dont know how to wrap a story up well. But I really like writing the first chapter, setting the scene etc... Sometimes with too much exposition though.

    When a very kind established author agreed to read my novella, their advice was both painful and very useful. Painful because they said I had a long way to go and there were many problems. But useful because they said the biggest improvement I could make was to swap Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 around. And it make absolute sense and really improved the thing tenfold. Chapter 1 was all exposition and world building, and not engaging enough. Chapter 2 had the main character in peril. With that scene now as the first chapter, the reader was interested enough to continue and tolerate the exposition that came next.

    Simples! :)
     
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  13. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, it's not about where in the story the chapter is but who talks. I've a darn problem—everytime—I write something from someone else's POV but my two main charactes in the main novel. Doesn't even matter who that someone else is, or in which relation to my main characters they stand.

    First chapters: Are not difficult, only the first paragraph is.
    Intermediate chapters: Are not difficult, only the first paragraph is.
    Final chapters: Not written yet so can't comment.
    Conclusion: Not difficult at all.

    (No, I'm not a linear writer. Mostly :oops:.)
     
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  14. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    The hardest chapter is still only notes. In it I kill my darlings before I'm halfway to the middle. My favorite fMC and her sister. I won't have any others to kill later. I'm such a bastard :supercry:
     
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  15. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    First chapter has to achieve a lot and is therefore the hardest to write.

    My guide to writing a first chapter:

    1. ...
    2. ...
    3. ...
    Etc....

    You get the picture. Just fill in the gaps. Doesn't sound so hard until you actually have to sit down and do it.

    Planning all the way works and no matter how interesting your character, give them something to do for F#@K sake!
     
  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    The first one, because that’s the one that has to really hook the reader. The final chapter is easy, it’s the final climax and/or tying up loose ends, so it almost brings itself together. You also have more leeway with the reader. Something Stephen Spielberg said comes to mind, he was talking about film but the idea works just as well for writing. Peter Benchley (or maybe one of the actors,) told Spielberg that the final explosion in Jaws would be seen as unrealistic for the audience and he retorted back that if he had the audience the way he wanted them for 90 minutes, they’ll stay with him for the final 2.
     
  17. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Active Member

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    It’s always a chapter in the middle for me. Specifically, the first half of the second act.

    I actually rather like first chapters. Sure, I’m likely to need to rewrite it sometime down the road but the idea is new and shiny and I have plenty of ideas and motivation.

    The ending is is one of the first things I visualize, so by the time I get there, not only do I have a strong idea of how I want the scene to go, I’ll also have a good feel for the characters, voice, world, etc.

    I always, always flounder in the middle though, specifically, the beginning of the second act, the ‘fun and games’ section. There are a ton of ‘seeds’ I need to plant that will pay off later (and I love writing pay off scenes) but since we’re still early on, I have few seeds that have already sprouted to work with. Keeping the build-up portion of the novel interesting and cohesive is always a struggle.
     
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  18. AlyceOfLegend

    AlyceOfLegend Member

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    The final chapter because it has to wrap everything up.

    Or maybe it's the transitions. Sometimes making the leap from one plot point to the next is incredibly difficult because I don't was to Spock it. Meaning, I want the characters to learn from what they are given, not suddenly figuring stuff out.
     
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  19. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    The third quarter is the hardest. The beginning comes quickly, then somewhere halfway down the road the ending becomes clear, but eventually I get stuck real bad with some scenes somewhere past the halfway and before the end.
     
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  20. Raven484

    Raven484 Contributor Contributor

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    For me, any chapter that pertains to something that is actually going on in my real life. I like to outline each chapter and take it from there, but if something similar is going on in my life, I really struggle to get it right. For example: I was writing a chapter where my main was having a really emotional discussion with his father. At the same time, my father passed away, so everything I tried to write came out really dark and distorted from what I actually wanted. Took me seven months on 8 pages before I could actually be satisfied with it.
     

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