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Revising the beginning of a fantasy novel

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Hi. Happy New Year 2017,

I've been working on a fantasy novel for a very long time. I've revised it several times,at least four or five. A published author read it some time ago and said the beginning was too slow. She didn't read anymore because of this. https://www.scbwi.org/boards/Smileys/default/oops2.gif

I've revised it, but I find there's a lot of information that needs to be included. If I could just feed the information in small pieces, I might get an editor interested in it.

Are there any books, articles or resources, you could recommend to help me revise the beginning? 

Thank you.
#1 - January 23, 2017, 06:36 PM

SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS has been a good editing resource for me.

I also recommend critiquing for several other writers in your genre so that you get a sense of how *you* would fix and change someone else's story without having the baggage of your own work/emotional investment. I find that the more I help other people wade through revisions, the better I get at revising my own.

When I'm revising for information and find that I have one scene for this bit and one scene for that bit, and another scene for yet another piece, I start trying to consolidate. I now try to have my scenes do 2-3 things each. Try to find the most interesting way to reveal the important information while also revealing character and creating tension.

And one caveat: Just because someone is published doesn't mean that their preferences in storytelling are ones that fit your style. Have you read this author's work? Do you feel that her style matches the style you want to emulate? Or does she tell stories too quickly for you? There have been plenty of times when I've exchanged critiques with writers who find my world-building to slow, but I find theirs far too fast. (And my agent doesn't think I'm slow at all--she's asking me to frontload a bit more on my current WIP.) I would want to have consistent feedback that indicated I truly had a problem--unless I feel in my gut that the person is absolutely right.
#2 - January 23, 2017, 09:13 PM

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SELF-EDITING is great but I like at a later stage of revision. I like SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl Klein and Don Maass' BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK when I'm at the beginning stages of revision and there are a lot more structural elements to consider. A more recent book is Lisa Cron's STORY GENIUS.

Beginnings are hard. There's so much to balance and most people have a tendency to dump a lot of information that can be spooled out as needed. You want your readers to be intrigued but not confused. It helps to have critique partners in this process. You can try looking for a partner on the SCBWI critique boards or ask for feedback on an excerpt. Good luck!
#3 - January 24, 2017, 04:35 AM
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 04:38 AM by Vijaya »
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Thanks HDWestlund and Vijaya. Your insight and recommendations are great. I've been working years on this book. It's complete and I've changed many things as I worked on the backstory and clarified. I know the beginning needs more work. That comment about speed has me thinking.

Have a lovely day and inspiration to you both.
#4 - January 24, 2017, 09:02 AM

The book suggestions are excellent. Story by McKee is another craft book.

You can also look at your tension and forward movement. Also look at where the reader will have questions (probably about both character and plot) and so will want to read more.
You may want to explore the concept of 'inciting incident' and look at where that is in your book. (They aren't always placed at the beginning, but knowing where it is placed and why it is in that location, may help you.)
These ideas, perhaps, will help you look at your chapter to see if you need to revise again.

It is always a trick to include needed information in a scene so it is feels natural. The small pieces can often be included in a scene.
Good luck!
#5 - February 04, 2017, 11:26 PM
Sarah Blake Johnson, MFA
http://sarahblakejohnson.blogspot.com/
Crossings (2017, Cedar Fort)

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Thanks, Sarah. Those are interesting points I'm going to look into. I really appreciate your taking the time to share your knowledge.
I wish you lots of success with your book, Crossings. I see that you worked on it for years. What a great achievement to see it published after all that work!
#6 - February 06, 2017, 11:16 AM

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A book I really like is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.
Tag line is: 6 core competencies of successful writing. (concept, character, theme, structure, scene construction & writing voice)
It is fairly cheap on Amazon ($10 give or take). It is a good read regardless, but may help with your specific struggle.

Good luck!

C.D. O'Dell
@CDOwrites
www.societyofheroes.com
#7 - February 08, 2017, 09:56 AM

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For every piece of information you include, ask yourself two questions:

Does the reader need to know this?
Does the reader need to know this now?

This helps ensure you aren't dumping info in the wrong place because the reader needs it eventually or adding stuff the reader doesn't need spelled out.

I hope this helps.
#8 - February 12, 2017, 06:12 PM
« Last Edit: February 20, 2017, 06:11 PM by Debbie Vilardi »

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I think it's like Coco Chanel's rule on jewelry: take one piece off at the door.
#9 - February 12, 2017, 10:55 PM
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It's sometimes surprising what we think readers need to know. It's like reading the recipe vs. eating the meal.
(Also--having critique partners who can see where the story is getting bogged down are invaluable.)
#10 - February 13, 2017, 07:13 AM

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C.D. O'Dell, Debbie Vilardi, dewsanddamps and LadySlipper thanks for your suggestions and questions to help me in this process. Happy writing.
#11 - February 28, 2017, 08:28 PM

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