The Latrobe Reading room at the Victorian State Library is a great place for reflection. When you look up from your reading, your vision extends to the almost 35 metre dome several stories above. The acoustics multiply every sound to every point, thus causing everyone to keep very quiet. It was the perfect place for me to contemplate the beginning of my novel, the first chapter.
Disappointingly, although not unexpected, the first chapter, written over two years ago, does not match the heights of architectural excellence reached by the dome above me. Truth be told, it’s woeful. It's the proof point that ‘doing’ generates ‘learning’. At the time of writing I already had the benefit of four years of Creative Writing education. Now, when I look at the chapter I see much that is wrong.
For those of you interested, the two major flaws are:
1. Information is presented rather than encountered. One of my lecturers described this as an information dump and suggested several more interesting ways to share the necessary information with the reader; via conversation or interspersed with action would be my two preferred methods.
2. There is little tension despite a traumatic event, a meeting with conflict, and a substantial internal dilemma for the main character. The solution to this is clearer now the first draft is written and I can use more ‘foreshadowing’ of the coming events with subtle hints.
It’s not all bad. The main protagonists are introduced through the above mentioned trauma, meetings and internal conflict. The ingredients are there. Fine tuning (read: major rewriting) is what the second draft is all about and should whip this into shape.
The best news is that I recognize the issues. I can thank my Creative Writing education for developing an improved ability to see the flaws.
Who knows what I will think of the first chapter when I get to the third draft.
Meanwhile, instead of waiting for my novel, get to the Latrobe Reading Room to see an example of outstanding architecture. Even my girls were impressed.