So about that first chapter . . .

So here’s the problem.  

On the one hand, I’m getting all the info I need to write the rest of the book in the first chapter.  

On the other hand, I like books with fast starts.  

So I did some vicious cuts.  I figured in the first scene I need Nita, Button, and Mort, with the set-ups of the new partner, the doughnuts, the Devil, and Joey.  In the second scene I need Nick questioning Vinnie and taking the scupper from Rab, with the set-ups for the Hotels, the gate and missing agents.  I’d like to get the smite in there, but it takes up a lot of story real estate.  That gave me enough space to add in a vastly shortened third scene so Nita could meet Nick before Chapter Two.

I’m not sure if it’s better or not.  It’s definitely faster, but . . .  

Argh.  It’s up there under Works in Progress, Nita’s First Chapter labeled “Vicious Cuts.”  If you can stand to read it again, let me know if it’s better or worse.  ARGH.   





86 thoughts on “So about that first chapter . . .

  1. Lol. Vicious cuts.

    Also, did something change in formatting? Or did the blog move? Something is different.

      1. Sure. Specifically, my feed goes from your post straightaway into Comments. I myself like this new mode. On the other hand, I access this place in a new way, so perhaps new mode is not you but me.

  2. Better. I regret the authorial smiting of the precision smite, but I assume it might come along later.

    The sense of a team forming is stronger, at least for me. I think that’s because you turned down the volume on Jason.

    I will read this as many time as you can stand to post it!

  3. As someone mentioned in an earlier comment, I enjoy every version of the drafts that you have posted. Introducing Nick to the first chapter is definitely an improvement and it feels tighter and more focused. Finding the newest version was an unexpected but very appreciated bonus. Thank you!

  4. I, too, will read this – with joy – as many times as you care to post it. That said, I am in the minority and prefer the earlier versions. Speaking as a reader, I think you’ve cut too much of the stuff that made the earlier versions so charming.

    In the version you posted a few days ago, Nick was so reserved I got little sense of who he was, or what he cared about, so I didn’t care if he succeeded or failed. I know we’ll see more as the story moves along, but didn’t you say you needed the reader to identify quicker with Nita? Isn’t that true for Nick as well?

    In today’s version, you cut so much parts don’t make sense. Nita asks Frank not to tell Jason – there is no mention that Jason is the detective, so why shouldn’t Frank tell him? Also, Mort says “He doesn’t have it solved.” Again, we don’t yet know about Jason, and the rest of the conversation that led up to Mort making that statement is gone.

    I thought letting Mort say “He’s a demon” and Nita say “There’s no such thing” was more effective than Button asking about it (and fewer words).

    Nick tells Vinnie, “the smite will get bigger.” The smite hasn’t made an appearance – how can it get bigger?

    Why would Rabiel assume all the demons on the island would come to Vinnie’s bar to drink scupper? The island wide party makes a lot more sense.

    You cut the bit where Dag steps behind Vinnie so the mention of ‘Dag, still behind Vinnie’ is another of those moments that jolted me out of the story. Also, the way Dag stepped behind Vinnie felt much more effective at showing Nick’s anger, Rabiel’s cluelessness and Dag’s smarts than all the talk of Nick looming.

    Please forgive me for being so negative. I love your writing, but as a reader, I felt like you cut all the bits that made me smile, made me laugh, that sucked me into the story until I forgot where I was. I know you think the first act is too bloated, but it seems you’re cutting too much of the flavor that made it so special.

    I did like the hellfire in Nick’s hand. That made Vinnie’s capitulation more believable.

    1. I love your writing, too, Jenny, and I agree with carolc about preferring the earlier versions that incorporated Jason. I realize he’s Trouble, not Conflict, but I thought his presence gave us a richer view of Nita’s (messed up) personal life as well as a better idea of how things were for her in the police department. Plus, as carolc says, those pages were charming. I thought we got into the action fast enough.

    2. See, I figured that not explaining immediately who Jason was added (positively) to the tension in the scene. It’s kind of a ” wait, who?” but you’re still caught up in figuring everyone out anyway and the action pulls you on. Then Jason rolls into the scene and it’s, like, oh, YOU’RE Jason. (But then, I don’t necessarily like it when an author figures I’m dumb and everything has to be sidebar-explained immediately.)

      Although I liked all of the versions as they appeared, I do feel the changes in tempo and tension in this version. It definitely feels more polished.

      Thanks, Jenny, for letting us all follow this process so closely. It’s fascinating!

    3. If the smites haven’t happened yet, they can hardly get smaller, can they? 🙂 I agree that the cuts need work (Jason and references to him kind of drop in and out, as you said). I think this if a little faster, but I’m not sold that it needed vicious cutting.

      I’m probably the only one who thinks the Hotels would be better later, too. It’s a lot of characters to keep track of for the beginning of a book.

      Still interesting to see where I’d cut vs. where Jenny cuts. Thank you!

      1. You’re not the only one. I think Jason was active and the Hotels are a Greek chorus.

        I can live without the greek chorus until later.

        I don’t need the explanation for scupper now either since I thought that worked better once I had a feel for Rabiel.

        I miss the precision smiting.

        1. You need the explanation for the scupper now, or the fact that Nita can taste it is meaningless. Nita tasting it means that the reader can deduce that she’s not completely human, rather than her drinking it and having somebody explain the significance which would be deadly. Readers like to figure things out, not just be told what they mean.

          1. Their reaction to her tasting it told me the last time.

            I read science fiction & fantasy – I really don’t need to know what a thing is until it’s active in the story.

            It feels a little like something you don’t do – which is an info dump.

            Okay this is my take which may of course be completely faulty. The purpose of the scene is for Nick to get information from Vinnie. Also to introduce Daglas & Rabiel. Also to introduce the Hotels. Also to introduce the concept of scupper.

            Nick instead of concentrating on Vinnie is telling three drunks that he’s the Devil and his attention keeps wandering from Vinnie.

            That’s before Nita walks in the door.

            Now Nita is also concentrating on Vinnie – except there’s a side bar with Mort and Nick. Nick hands over a bullet ripped shirt without argument even though that would prove to the average person that something weird just happened. Why? If the whole point is that there should be no questions asked, why hand it over? Why didn’t he change his shirt or is his shirt even real or just part of his physical projection over his skeleton? If so, why wouldn’t it now be a full and undamaged shirt?

            I thought Nick’s goal was to find his people, close the illegal hellgate and get back to Hell before he became the Devil. For that he needs answers from Vinnie.

            Nita’s goal is to find out who killed Joey and what’s wrong with her island. For that she needs answers from Vinnie.

            I don’t see why Nick would cooperate with Mort or why Rabiel would bring out scupper at this moment. If you say the Hotels need to be there, I believe you but to me they’re not carrying their weight in this scene.

            Then there’s the odd kick to me which probably doesn’t matter to anyone else. Back in the day, I closed bars. Most cities which aren’t NYC have closing times of 1 or 2 am. Cops swung by to make sure last call was last call. You just had a murder out front, it’s definitely after midnight, but the cops didn’t close the bar. If they hadn’t closed it, why aren’t the cops in there having a beer before going home?

          2. Yeah, Rab volunteering the bottle isn’t as good as Nick seeing it and asking. I would maintain that aside from the bottle, Nick stays focused on Vinnie, but I have to go back and look.

            I would think not cooperating with Mort would be a bigger signal than cooperating. Why would he say no? He figures he’s going to be gone in a day anyway. He wants to get rid of Mort and the rest and when he gives Mort the shirt, Mort leaves. I’m not seeing any upside to saying no.

            Last question: The cops don’t want to know, they have bigger problems, which is supposed to be implied by their lousy handling of the whole thing. Which means I need more Jason to make that clear. They know the Hotels, they know they live in walking distance so no drunk driving, they know Vinnie’s going to close the bar ASAP,but mostly they know they want the crime scene gone.

            So I need to set up the cops are hinky better.

          3. Nita & Button are also cops. Is it possible for one of them to be surprised that the Hotels are still drinking or does it just add more stuff to your scene that you don’t need?

            As I said, it’s a little thing and it may be different in small towns, but closing time was pretty strict in places I’ve lived so it bothered me.

          4. Button might. That’s a good idea.
            We’re talking about the worst dive bar on a tourist island that’s out of season, and cops that just want to get the hell out of there and bury the investigation.
            If I could, I’d put the Hotels staying on the top floor of the bar, but Rab and Dag just gutted that.

      2. Huh. Originally, I had him smiting Vinnie’s bottle of demon run but it felt funny. Yeah, I’ll have to take that line out and smooth out the Jason references.

    4. You’re not being negative. You’re offering helpful criticism. That’s exactly what I wanted. Thank you!

    5. I cut the part about Dag stepping behind Vinnie because Nick shouldn’t be angry in this scene: He’s dead, no emotions. Also Dage is the steady one and wouldn’t do that.
      Yeah, I need to clean up those references. There’s always blood on the floor when you get the machete out to revise.

  5. I love reading the drafts. Thank you.

    Random question – Nita tries to call Mort but instead she drunk-dials Button. Was that a lucky fluke, or does she have Button’s number? Why would she have Button’s number in her phone? Isn’t this their first meeting?

    1. Backstory. The Lieutenant told Nita at the end of the day that Button would be her new partner and gave her the info which she put in the phone. When she clicked on the phone again to call Mort back, she just hit the new page.

  6. I loved the first scene! The pace was great, the characterizations were terrific, and some of those lines–just perfect. Moderately hostile, menace beneath the fluff. Great stuff! And the moment you got me: I haven’t apologized for that yet. My only suggestion is the dialogue that begins, “Judging by…” felt too authorial. Didn’t feel like Nita’s voice.

    The second scene, though, didn’t feel so snappy. Too many characters, too many words packed into the sentences (opening para, for example), and there wasn’t that moment (I haven’t apologized for that yet) that hooked me emotionally.

    I liked the third scene, but it was missing the emotional element I got from Nita’s first scene. Meaning, I started to care the moment she said, I haven’t apologized for that yet, but then I didn’t get an emotional investment from scenes 2 or 3.

  7. I think this is better. Although like Muria, I could do without the hotels – especially as the Muppet reference means nothing to me. I also have to look up Cthulu (or whatever his name is) every time.

    1. The Camden Green (?) reference in Life on Mars was the same thing for me. I didn’t know what it was, but I enjoyed the hell out of that episode anyway.

      1. Camberwick Green. I do think visual references like that one are easier; but I agree that I’ll usually sail along with the story anyway.

  8. Demon Island Medical Examiner – DIME? Hahahahahaha!

    And I love the Hotels, although I did think of the Muppets to start with, so the addition of Astoria kind of threw me off.

    I miss the smiting, too – although you can’t do that if you include the Hotels.

    And while I get all the parts of the story are there, it does feel a bit too frantic. If you want the pace to escalate through the story, we’re starting off at a sprint already. 🙂

  9. While this does indeed move more quickly, I preferred the earlier version because so many characters revealed some distinguishing quirks. Perhaps it needed trimming not whacking? One detail I keep stumbling over, though: how can a donut be “bad” enough to make Nita unwell? Underbaked? Too oily? It doesn’t feel like a reconizable ailment, the way bad fish or hamburger might be.

  10. I like the smite better than the Hotels. The Hotels added nothing and made me wonder why any half way competent cop would leave the bar open during an investigation.

    Especially one that happens after midnight.

    1. That’s the point. Jason comes in, asks Nick a couple of questions, asks Vinnie one, and leaves, ignoring the Hotels. And he is a competent cop, so something’s wrong there, which Button says later.

  11. I like that you got rid of Jason coming over to the car. I felt that didn’t add much and slowed them moving out of the car. I didn’t realize that until you cut it.

    Similarly, getting rid of the smiting moved things along in that scene. The flame in the hand was much scarier than the tables and chairs turning to ash. But I miss “precision smiling” as a phrase. It’s very quotable.

  12. I meant “recognizable,” of course.

    And re-reading my comments, I think it’s the fleshing out of Jason’s hostility and also Mort’s professional opinion on what happened with the SUV that I miss in this version. Otherwise, they are just name characters who don’t contribute enough to earn their keep in the first chapter.

    1. The problem is that they’d be there, and they’re both essential, not just for set-up, which as we all know is my problem, not the reader’s, but because the crime scene is Jason’s and Mort is the ME. Even Frank is important.

      But I agree I have to set Jason up better.

  13. Elegant edit. Three scenes have just enough information with excellent pacing sprint — we’re off! with involving characters, relationships both intense and comic, evocative scenery and puzzles aplenty. Habitue Hotels offer chorus and old-timer knowledge. Given the bar and the non-investigation, plausible they’d remain. Particularly like the palm flame economy. Previously, Nick jawed on and still Vinnie didn’t come up with the name “Lemon.” Now Nick shows the palm flame and Vinnie blurts. For me, well done all around.

  14. Oh, yes! The pacing here is much better. The only thing that really stops me is when Jason is suddenly so nasty to Nita.

    What I really love is that there is more feeling and emotion in the second half, and a lot less information coming at me. You haven’t decreased the number of characters as far as I can see, but you’ve “folded them in” better — Belia is foreshadowed, not taking active part in the scene for example.

    I really like the descriptions Nita has for Nick. Without going back, I’m not sure if you added them, or that with the cuts, the descriptions shine more.

    Mmmm! This is a great book!

    1. Oddly enough, Belia was never in this scene. She was always in the fourth scene, in Nick’s PoV. There’s a four-scene sequence in the bar that used to be the second chapter. I just moved the first scene up. But yes, less info is good for the reader. Bad for me getting the back story in, but as we all know, the reader is what matters. I’ll suck it up and find another way.

  15. The very first bit is great at this length, except “stranger” in the first line doesn’t pull right — Button isn’t a stranger, exactly.

    That very last comment about “a drink in her hand” combined with the three toddies earlier is back to making her read to me like a lush — or somebody with a drinking problem and a strong sense of denial.

    There is also a problem with beginnings when reading fantasy (or novels containing the fantastic, whatever) where the reader knows it isn’t the real world but doesn’t know what elements are fantastical. Therefore, Nita’s matter of fact acceptance that Nick isn’t real makes me expect that a) there are unreal people and b) Nita has interacted with them before, that they’re a normal feature, where demons are not. Her mention of Cthuhlu makes me think I’m in a Lovecraft story — and it could be there’s a major feminist reinterpretation of the Lovecraft mythos going on right now, check out Ruthanna Emrys’s _Wintertide_ for a start. Every clue about the fantastic I get in the first chapter is going to be clicking into worldbuilding, and you don’t want me grabbing things that send me in the completely wrong direction. I’m also getting all the stuff about Thanatos and etc, from Rabiel and Daglas, which at this cut feel like infodumps rather than anything anyone would actually say. They worked fine in the longer version. Which brings me to the smite — the smite has gone from burning the whole contents of the bar to the precision smite to nothing. As it was what initially made the reader believe, I miss it, because we went down a road to belief step by step with Vinnie, which was neat and worked.

    1. I wonder at what point it’s necessary for our characters (and the readers) to believe in the powers. Does it have to happen in the first chapter? I miss the smite, too, but I think this version reads much faster, and I’m hoping the smite can be used later when Nick needs to make a point that yes, all of this is real.

      For me, the revealing of the demons is enough to convince me-the-reader that this demon stuff is all real. I trust Nick to be a fairly reliable POV narrator (at this point).

      Very interesting points to consider. I’m writing an urban (well, semi-rural) fantasy/romance, and I need to keep these things straight.

      1. Characters and readers are very very different things here. Characters needn’t ever believe, theoretically, and Jenny has talked about Nita believing being an end of act one turning point. But the reader… the reader needs to have a grip on how the world works or else the world feels arbitrary and stupid. If any old thing could randomly happen, if the reader doesn’t feel the world makes sense, the reader is going to stop caring what happens. And there’s a problem here for this kind of crossover in that you will have romance readers with their expectations of explanation and world and pacing and also fantasy readers with theirs, and it needs to be satisfying for both. There is a thing though with the mismatch between reader and character knowledge. In the old version, we knew Nick was the devil, or the devil’s fixer, before Nita did. There’s only so much of that a reader can take before thinking Nita is an idiot because she refuses to believe what we know to be correct.

        There are two easy ways of doing this. One is to have the characters know whatever world stuff and take it for granted, the way Nick does here. Readers are a very easy sell for that, generally. The other way is for the characters to know nothing and to learn it at the same pace as the readers, so as the readers are reacting with “Wait, what?” the characters are doing the same, and as the characters discover things, so do the readers. Readers will also hold still for this. I actually have a whole long essay about this that I gave as a speech at Mythcon and which got published in their book but which doesn’t seem to be online anywhere. I’ll see if I can stick it on my website if it might be useful.

        1. I agree with this completely. It’s the reason Mort believes, not within the book but from plotting. If Mort believes there are demons, and then he shows up sane, the reader’s not sure but it’s possible. Then the second scene with Nick says, “Demons are real,” and the reader knows for sure.

        2. Oh, very cool! Thanks, Jo. If you could post a link here, I’d appreciate it. Or I’ll check Sunday-ish to see if it is up.

          Jenny, it’s an interesting point about Mort. I don’t think we readers know him well enough in Chapter One to see if he’s sane or not. But we do see enough weird stuff afoot (“Spooky” Dodd’s reputation, eyewitnesses who have seen an impossible shooting) that some of us (me for example) are willing to suspend judgement.

          So interesting about the codewords for fantasy people. I like urban fantasy, and I’m very accepting of “pop culture fake magic” alongside “real” magic beliefs. I adore it when one character takes another character aside and says, “You know, we don’t really care at all about garlic. But keep us away from the sunlight!” It fits into our real-world doubts and experiences — people used to believe X about science, but it turns out only “x” is true — a kernel of truth around which a mythos sprang. I love it when magic is made scientific, and we discover the new rules of it in a fictional world.

          I skimmed over the Cthulu reference because it’s not one of my fandoms. But I think it added to the characterization/mind set of the island. A reference to Elvis would also be skimmed over by me — unless it was accompanied by a half-eaten peanut butter and banana sandwich.

          What makes Nick “real” to me? The shirt. The eyewitnesses who saw a guy get shot seventeen times and walk away (even though it was hearsay until Nick shows his shirt, I still believed). What makes demons real? Mort’s testimony is only foreshadowing and that’s fine for me. But seeing the demons through Nick’s eyes (and Vinnie’s) clicked that into place for me.

          But then again, I’m the type of reader that I am. Slightly gullible, not terribly deep on first reading. Ready to follow a bewitching voice well into any forest, and partway into a swamp if need be.

          It’s important for me to see how other readers read things in this field, and also how other writers craft it. Love this blog!

    2. The smite just took up too much story real estate. I’m okay with the reader not being sure in the first scene because Mort believes; I think since he shows up sane, that’s a nudge, but not a sure thing. (Hi, Sure Thing.) Then in the second scene, Nick tells Vinnie the truth, the boys turn green, and there’s the palm hellfire and the skull, and the reader knows for sure. The first scene is just over 2000 words, which is fairly short for one of my beginning chapters, the second is the same, and the third is even shorter because most of the bar sequence is in the second chapter (it used to be all of the bar sequence). I think what the end of the first chapter needs, though, is Nita finding the bottle of scupper. Not opening it yet, just finding it, because that’s a minor but key turning point. Chapter One establishes the supernatural is real and Nita doesn’t believe, plus there’s something wrong with Nita. Chapter Two establishes that Nita’s not completely human and doesn’t know it and (very slowly) starts the romance.
      Cthulhu can probably be cut. I thought everybody knew him/it, but I should have known better. Just because he’s a bumper sticker on my car . . .

      1. A character in the daily cartoon strip “Cucaracha,” Cthulhu is. Plus, of course, the lurking mythic figure. These days little kids are much more scared by Cthulhu than they are scared by the Big Bad Witch. In my part of the world, everybody does know him. Of course, when I stand on the beach two blocks away, I can see Tijuana.

        1. I guess I just thought everybody knew Cthulhu. He’s on T-shirts and bumper stickers. That said, so far I haven’t referenced him again, so if he’s not well-known, the joke falls flat anyway.

          1. I know him well enough to feel the menacing, evil presence, LOL. But not well enough to spell his name right. Cthulhu.

            I think it normalizes the magic, to be honest. I mean, it’s like eggs. I think the most recent studies say “Eggs Good! Eat all you like as long as it’s not to excess.” But there are a lot of people who still believe “Eggs BAD! I can’t believe you’d suggest them to me.” And there are the people who feel, “I have no particular problem with eggs, but they are great for a joke.”

            If there are people with varying Cthulhu opinions (real/not real/not relevant) in the universe, it shows a deeper magical system underpinning the island.

            Or I’m just fond of a Cthulhu reference in these trying times, and I’m coming up with reasons to save it! LOL.

            Lovecraft seems to have been such a trying man.

  16. Palm flame is intimate, vivid, in-Vinnie’s-face with his scared recoil, so his reaction – blurt the truth – works for me. I already can tell I’m gonna love me some Hotels. They provide needed breathers in the scene with all the reveals, and I sense their crucial presence prefigured for the future. Good job. Bring it on. Which, since no Sunday Happies, I believe Devil/Nita is on which you’re concentrating.

    Just a slight “Waa, where are my Happies.”

  17. Well, I think the blog think was a blip. The font was different, like a text doc. Now it is not.

    I have read every draft you put up. I just don’t get the value of the hotels. Further in there are the historical society et al. I don’t think we need them to tell us that Joey was nice. I for one, believed Nita when she told us that he was.

  18. I miss precision-smiting
    The Hotels leave me cold
    I think there might be too little explanation of Jason (we all know about him now so hard to judge)
    I didn’t care for the bar scene as much
    I miss Joey being Vinnys little half-brother

    I didn’t mind the vicious revision in the 1st part so much but didn’t care for the bar scene as much

    I still love the story but even more so the characters

  19. I like this much more, especially the first part. Really like that you didn’t have Jason come into the car. I hadn’t realised how much it slowed the scene down. This version feels more like Nita’s scene, now there’re fewer people pulling her in all directions. It’s a clear Nita vs Button, Nita wins.

    The hotels don’t add anything for me. If you’re having them in this first scene, I’ll assume they’re important.

    This reads to me more like both Nita and Nick are single-mindedly focused on solving the murder. I like that.

  20. Oh, and I like the hellfire more than the smite. The smite felt vindictive, the hellfire just threatening.

  21. I like the first scene. It does need a bit of streamlining, but Jason does work better being referred to rather than getting actual screentime. If we get a sense that they don’t get along, we can get more of the backstory later.

    The bar scene feels pretty rushed, honestly, like your trying to fit everything in as fast as possible. I don’t miss the smiting, and I don’t really know what the Hotels are doing there (my first thought is “running gag/comic relief” and my second thought is “plot-important characters disguised as comic relief until the plot twist”) but if you say they’re important, then I’ll trust that they’re worth the real estate they’re given here.

    I’m…. not sure about the third scene? It seems fine, but then there’s something kind of off, but I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe what someone said earlier about Nick and Nita’s goals getting a bit lost in the scene? Like Nick saying “I’ll tell her if you don’t”– does Nick care about her getting the truth, or just trying to get her to finish and go faster, or what?

    Also, it probably doesn’t need to be in the first chapter, but I keep wondering what other “wrong things” Nita has been gathering/considering before Joey’s murder; I hope a little elaboration occurs at some point later on.

    1. Yep, she fills Button in when she meets her later that day; it was one of the things I let drop in the last rewrite you all saw.

      I had a part with the Hotels where it implied there’s something off about Astoria, but I cut it. Might have to put that back in.

      And okay FINE I’ll go look at the scene in the bar again. Because you’re all probably right.

  22. Do we need to know about equilibrium sucking demons vack into Hell at this point? That’s the only bit that still feels like infodump to me, because Nick is telling Dag something he already knows.

    1. I think so because it shows up again when the shooter disappears.
      And he’s not telling Rab something he already knows, he’s pointing out that the humans will think a human body disappeared, something Rab hadn’t thought of. It seemed like something Nick would do, pointing out the logic behind his disapproval.
      But I can try to make it less infodumpy.

  23. I’ve liked all the versions. 🙂

    In this one, with the rest of it being so thrifty, Dag & Rab seemed to babble a bit too much. They are both way too chatty given the circumstances. They’re giving us useful information; but to me – as someone in a very hierarchical workplace – it just seems so, well, *unlikely* that they would be so non-deferential to Nick. They shut up, but they don’t STAY shut up. This didn’t jump out at me in the more leisurely predecessor versions.

    One other thing about them: having said “twenty-something” adding “college type” or whatever it was (sorry for inexact memory & quote) seemed redundant.

    I like the hellfire. I would like a leetle more internal monologue from Nita that is not “must not appear drunk.”

    1. I thought that with Dag’s two sentences. He’d answer Vinnie as briefly as possible.
      Rab will talk to anybody anywhere anytime.

      There’s a lot of internal monologue from Nita, it’s just not direct in italics. The Cthulhu stuff, her description of him, her description of Vinnie, most of that third scene is Nita’s internal monologue.

        1. Too much of the italics can be awful on the page, but I can shift some of the indirect internal monologue over pretty easily. Back to rewriting.

  24. I thought the yelling with Witherspoon was odd without the old setup – he doesn’t know why/how she’s at the bar yet in this version, right?

    Dag doesn’t step behind Vinnie, but at one point he’s “still” behind him during the scupper part.

    I didn’t get “Early Asshat” but I wasn’t sure if there used to be more setup or if I just didn’t get it.

    1. I think the set-up for that is still in there, but I’ll check. It probably needs to be hit harder because that’s a recurring motif.
      I thought I’d taken the “still” out but obviously not.
      The whole Witherspoon thing needs fixed.

  25. Something bugs me about the opening and I’m trying to figure out what. One thing that did strike me is that Nita doesn’t move for a very long time. There are reasons for this but they do make me want to give her a push (not a shove, although there are moments where I want to shake her).

    Relying only on memory here – I’m not near my Crusie collection – but when I recall other Crusies, I think of openings with lots of energy. Whether it’s cooking, cleaning out a car, driving, pacing, walking up steps, etc., that movement always keeps us readers hopping along too, with joy and anticipation for the mayhem to follow. Nita just sits there, practically whinging. We know we’re probably going to love her, but … it’s clearly going to take a while.

    Still thinking 🙂

    1. I think I have to go back to making her more active in trying to get out of the car. She’s trying to move toward something and Button keeps stopping her. I cut it back to three “Wait”s to make it shorter, but I think I cut Nita’s actions, too. That and handing the coffee back to Button was pretty much her action in trying to get to her goal (Mort).

      I think rather than put anything back, I have reconceptualize how she’s trying to get away from Button, how Nick’s trying to get info from Vinnie, and then the dynamic between Nita and Nick in the third one. I think the cuts are good, but they exposed the underlying weakness of the conflicts which were obscured by all the jazz hands conversation.

  26. I’ll agree on a bit too much time spent in the car. At least one “wait” could come after both Nita and Button are out of it.

    Another thought I had on the later part of the bar scene was that Nick seemed very much in charge and I wanted Nita to be more dominant. Something like, her glare at Rab/Dag/Vinnie having the same shutdown effect that Nick’s glare does, so that there’s a hint (beyond the upcoming scupper event) that she is not quite what she seems/everyone thinks. It would underscore her being thought of as “spooky.”

    But that may be just carryover from a day spent wishing *I* could shut up a yammering man with a glare.

  27. For some reason Nita’s almost getting out of the car multiple times irritated me this time, maybe because they were closer together. I kept thinking “why does she care what the newbie thinks.”
    I missed the smiting but understand why it had to go, though it did provide another reason for Nita to be antagonist to Nick. I didn’t get the Hotels.

  28. Carol C already covered some of my comments for me (thanks).

    Nita still leans back into a car she is sitting in, which throws me right out of the story while I try to figure this out. Apparently doesn’t bother anyone but me though, so whatever.

    I miss the ‘Nita making people stop talking in the car, Nick making people stop talking in the bar’ symmetry but I got to read it in draft, and I know you are a successful darling killer, so I am getting over it.

    I too prefer the flame to the smiting at this point. Can always smite later.

    Nita let go of his hand in surprise. “Mr. Lemon’s on the island?”
    “Find out what stuff?” Button said from behind her.
    “Could I have your shirt?” Mort said to the new guy.

    This is the part of this scene where the speed of action and cross purposes seems appropriate and exceedingly satisfying.

  29. I am so grateful to you for sharing these drafts. If someone was reading this draft for the first time, without reading any previous drafts, I think they might be a little confused.
    It feels like you are packing too much into the first chapter.
    So much of it is funny, but it also feels getting on a roller coaster.
    The Hotels, while funny feel irrelevant.
    In this version I don’t know why Jason is important. And I feel shortchanged on the Button Nita exchange.
    One trouble is you are a really funny woman and it’s hard to lose even one of your jokes..

  30. Just a couple of thoughts.

    Why does Nita start by saying everything’s wrong? Is it wrong because there are no murders on the island? Does she know how to handle a murder? Does she say this because she is so seldom drunk? At the end of the chapter, she thinks of the wrongness of the island.

    Why does Nita use the term “asshat”? I assumed that she’d swear outright rather than use a euphemism. (To be fair and open as a commenter, it’s a term I dislike.)

    How do Button, Nita, and Mort make eye contact in order to converse in the car? I find that car conversations involve a lot of maneuvering.

    If Jason’s response to the crime has been surprisingly cut and dried, why is Mort so cheerful about it? It bugged him enough to phone his sister, after all.

    I think “Don’t tell Jason I’m here” is the first reference to Jason. I’d like to be told that he’s lead detective on the case and I’d like to have a sense of his looks. Also, I would like to know if he is aware even a little bit of his quick closing of the case. (It would show without needing to be said.)

    Does Nita pick her way carefully across the wet cobblestones because she is drunk? I know that she is not wearing slippers, but I don’t know what she is wearing. Just wondering.

    Why doesn’t Nick notice the pajamas? Or Nita’s drunkenness? (I think the “putting her in charge” phrase is unnecesary.) At first I thought that the three cups of coffee had sobered her up sufficiently. Then she told me otherwise.

    I love all the stuff about Nick being pore-less. I like Nita’s ease with saying that visible people don’t exist. It took me three readings to notice that she has no problem shaking hands with a demon. I wish I’d caught that right away.

    Nita’s wish for another toddy doesn’t make sense to me. When I’m in similar straits, I want Advil, water, and to be alone a dark bedroom. If I’m involved in something, I try very hard to find Advil and water, and I focus very hard on what I’m supposed to do.

  31. One more question. Sorry.

    Mort says that a guy who claims to be the Devil is in the bar talking with Vinnie.

    But Nick denies being the Devil.

    That discrepancy confuses me.

  32. I only read the Nita part and not the other comments because I have to go work on my own WIP. I liked it *except* I thought there was too much explaining between her and Button that she was drunk and in pj’s vs. career and coffee. Those are easy concepts to grasp.

    So then I read faster and was confused about who the Devil is who got shot 17 times. I believe that part needs more explaining.

    “For one thing, he can’t explain how the Devil got shot seventeen times.” Who can’t explain? Vinnie? The Devil can’t explain himself?

    Did like: Bad Ass socks and jokes, Mort, Nita, the way you wove in the setting.

    It’s always a balance between a cool opener and not leaving readers behind. Sometimes I’ve been confused by your beginnings. Mostly in Fast Women, and a little in Wild Ride. I am a skimmer and may accidentally skip details, so that’s on me, but please don’t forget clarity amongst all the other terrific things you bring to the table (character, plot, humour, setting, creativity). <3

  33. I love Nita’s new entrance. I vividly get the sense of her marching in.

    I’m glad the smite is gone it always felt slow, distracting, and a little confusing to me.
    It felt faster with the Jason dialogue but the final, “Go to hell, Nita” no longer makes sense.

    Thanks for these treats!

  34. So I’m days behind, I know, and I haven’t read any of the comments above, as there are so many, so likely my comments have been covered and aren’t helpful at all, but I’m going to play anyway:
    – I like how we got out of the car quicker. It was snappy! Until she has a yelled exchange with Jason and I thought, “huh, that seemed like a lot of vitriol, and would that seem out of the blue to someone who hadn’t read the prior versions and so didn’t know their backstory?” So then I compared the two drafts, which I wasn’t really planning on doing, and I think it was better the first time around when she sees Jason and goes “oh hell, he can’t see me.” At least then the “don’t tell him I’m here” or the yelled exchange isn’t quite so random.
    – Ok, *I* know why they’re called “the Hotels,” as I’ve read the blog posts, but would Nick? I thought that was a cute nickname that Nita came up with for them? (Also, I am oddly resistant to the Hotels as they are a new addition, and I apparently hate change)
    – Oh. Rab calls them Hotels. For some reason, I believe that he would ferret out that nickname. But this is because I’ve already encountered Rab…
    – I think I liked the first intro to scupper better. This isn’t a helpful comment, I know. Apologies.
    – Everything is moving along at a clip, I suppose.

    1. Yep, the Jason thing is not working.
      Vinnie calls them the Hotels (not in the scene), so that’s where Rab hears it.
      I may just have to go to a longer first chapter. I like my chapters at around 5000 words, longer in the beginning, shorter at the end, and this one is just under 6000, but this definitely needs work.
      Still, shorter is better.

        1. Length has a big impact on pacing.
          Since I have to have chapters, they become part of the pacing. More than 6000 words is a long time to go without a break but I can probably hit 6500 in the first chapter and still not stretch too far, but only in the first chapter. After that I need to knock the lengths down so that when I get to Act Two, we’re in 5000 word territory all the time or the pace lags. If I wrote without chapters, which would be really nice, then I’d just have to make sure the scenes got shorter, or at least didn’t get longer.

  35. The fast version got me into Nita, who has been distant (for me) in earlier and slower drafts. I understand this Nita. The fast version is possibly a hair faster than it could be, but I love it as it sets up urgency. And I’m used to learning a world from the text (I read SF and fantasy a lot) so the mere mention of Jason worked perfectly.

    You’re great.


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