This past week, I completed final edits to my Halos manuscript, which explains the title of this post. I’ve butchered this baby to unidentifiable fleshy threads. I can say final edits at this point, because I’m confident that I have obsessed over this long enough. I’m not even sure if this is the same story I started out writing. But I feel like it’s a much better one. Time to put it out there and see what the hell happens. Except….
Up until just a couple days ago, I was going back and forth with whether or not to cut the brief snippet that I’d placed in front of the book. I’m talkin’ a sneak preview to a scene later in the story much like Stephenie Meyer did in her preface for Twilight. Larissa Ione has done it as well – Pleasure Unbound. What was all the confusion in my head about?
During my writing journey, I’ve read countless blog posts and books. Somewhere in the circular file of my mind, there exists a memory of something I’d read that discussed why authors shouldn’t do this. I’m pretty sure novice and idiot were also peppered into the post. Here’s the problem with adding a snippet to the beginning: first, it often robs the tension from the climax; and second, it may serve as a red flag to some readers. The thought being, if a writer has to pull a scene from later in the book and toss it before the very first page of the story, then the first chapter must not be strong enough to draw the reader in. A reader may become wary of the book, thinking it’s riddled with crap writing.
I wrote the scene in the beginning because I personally like the draw or ‘trickery’ as it’s sometimes referred to. I don’t feel robbed of anything. But I’m also the same chick who reads the last page of the book before I buy it. I can hear you gasp all the way across cyberland. Yes, I confess. I jump ahead in books, often times, because I can’t stand the humdrum of page to page without some action. And in the case of romance, just tell me if all this sexual tension leads to something. I’ve got a short attention span. Very short. I’m not a reader of anything that doesn’t suck me in the first few pages. You could say, I’m not really an avid reader because of this. However, I will read a really great book over and over again. I’d rather read something exciting a million times than trudge through something that makes me daydream about the contents of my sock drawer as I’m reading it. If a writer wants to show me that there’s something worth making the effort of reading chronologically by throwing it in front, I’m all for it.
But I’m not writing this book for me.
So I decided to do a little research. I posted the question on Twitter and Goodreads. I also used my personal social networking accounts (teeming with non-writerly types) to ask whether or not snippets irritate the crap out of readers. Wanna know what the result was?
About 60:40 in favor of cutting it. Now, I have a little bit of a background in Epidemiology, so I know I didn’t have a huge sample to make this number entirely relevant (no I did not get into chi-square or any other statistical bs with p-values). I’d say there were approximately 40 responses total. But it was enough for me to gain some insight outside of my own skull. Most of those who were all for the snippet at the front, not surprisingly, were non-writers; while many writers suggested that I axe it. I also had to consider that most writers are readers too.
The non-writers liked the draw. Many said it worked, making them eager to read the rest of the book. Two of them went so far as to ask why authors don’t do this so much anymore. Admittedly, these responses held some weight in my decision. At first, I didn’t want to cut the snippet. I thought it was pretty damn intriguing. Such a purdy little intro. Then I decided to challenge myself to try and restructure the first chapter; try to make it more of a draw. For those of you who write, you can appreciate how difficult it is, in the polishing stage of a book, to attempt a rewrite. It’s a ripple effect. How many other details in the story will be affected by something that I changed at the very beginning?
But at the same time, keeping it was a gamble. Especially for a debut. I certainly don’t want to risk potential readership based on my personal attachment to a brief piece of writing, when there are about 90,000 other words counting on me to let go. It just wouldn’t be fair. And I’m proud to say that, in the end, I murdered my little darling… *sniff*
What are your thoughts about the snippet at the beginning? Does it make you wary of the read?