Writing the Second Chapter


There’s an axiom in magazine editing. It goes like this: The first issue is not the hardest one to do. It’s the second issue.

Why? Because in our efforts to come up with a slam-bang beginning and get everyone’s attention, we generally end up using most, if not all, of our great ideas.

That’s a big reason why so many beginning authors start a book and then give up on it after 20, 30 or 50 pages. They’ve depleted their storehouse of ideas.

I find that writing a book is like riding a rollercoaster. You have that initial elation of starting on a new project, one you have high expectations for. You have thought long and hard about how to start it, and you have that part nailed–or at least are willing to come back at some point and fix it. Later, usually much later, you have the elation of riding down from the highest point of the coaster. It has synergy, it has momentum, and once you are there, the story and characters take over, and you’re just along for the ride.

But what’s in between those two points? I love starting a new project. It’s exciting. And I love it when the story takes over, when I have such a grasp on my characters that they become real in my eyes, and sometimes tell me what will happen. But I’m not so much in love with Chapter 2. That’s when you realize the reality that writing is hard work.

Correction: writing is easy. Writing well is very hard.

Pushing, shoving, slogging through that second chapter is often tough going. But it’s necessary. That’s when your idea actually becomes a story. And if you remember the elation of letting your story take over its own fate at a later date, it makes it that much easier to do. Writing is a task that goes from agony to ecstasy and back again, and there’s no telling which chapters will give you the most problems.

But I know that making the transition from a great beginning to a fantastic book is often a tremendous challenge.

But that’s why wimps aren’t authors, right?

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