I hate rewriting. I hate, hate, hate rewriting.
I went to critique group yesterday, and my great critique partners reminded me of something. After revising my first and second chapters, the second chapter now isn't working.
I revised to follow the classic plot structure described in 1863 by German Plot Theorist Freytag and known as Freytag's Triangle or Pyramid. According to this, classic plot structure should be begin with an inciting incident. I had inciting action now. It just wasn't the right one.
When writers (me included) think they have to start their books with some kind of big action, I see two main reasons:
1. We think it will interest the reader (agent, publisher) more.
2. We are trying to get the action moving forward, or make an inciting event.
But if that action is contrived and not true to the character and heart of the book, it will seem contrived.
My chapter two had a bully being really mean to the main character. However, as my critique partners so kindly and gently reminded me, my efforts to move things along had taken me far from the core elements of my story. It wasn't the bully my m/c feared as much as the whole setting I'd put him in. And I'd been totally ignoring how everything around him should be affecting him, changing his character to make him react to the bully the way I thought he should.
I still need an inciting incident. But today I sat down and wrote what I wanted those first chapters to show. Tomorrow I want to review what I love about the story. I can't let those important elements get lost.
Rules, outlines, guidelines for writing are all important. I want to not only follow them, but learn to follow them better. But if when we lose our story under a pile of shoulds, then it's time to step back and reevaluate.
Consider writing down what you really want your character to be, what you want to show her doing, what you want him to accomplish.
Print off that page and keep it somewhere close.
Stories that follow rules can be good.
Books that use rules to reach into the story's heart can be great.