First Scenes: A Ramble.

So I finally, finally, FINALLY got my rewrite of One in Vermillion to Bob, and he’s trying to format it now, which is not easy because the chapters numbers are all screwed up, but he’s just glad to have pried it out of my tense, panicking hands. And so now I am finally, finally, FINALLY back to Rocky Start. Which is no longer Excellent Oddities. Now it’s Rocky Start again.

And I’m looking at the first scene, which I wrote, and I think it’s too long.

Here’s my theory of scene length: I think scenes should get shorter as a reader moves through a book.

That’s not always possible of course, Vermillion’s scene are all over the place which worries me, but when you’re talking about first scenes, those are always going to be the longest in the book. The readers aren’t tired yet, they’ll read for quite before getting impatient, but not forever, so my rule of thumb is that no scene including the first scene should ever be more than 3000 words.

[Just to be clear, that’s my rule for me, not for anybody else. I have a hell of a time plotting (enter Bob) so I need rules to hem me in; many other writers do not. Do not take that A Rule. It’s what I use to keep myself from nattering.]

So here we are with the first scene of Rocky Start, which I like, and it’s 3357 words. I really need to cut a couple of pages. (A page is about 250 words.).

So the first thing I do is figure out the conflict which here is Rose vs Junior. But there’s a whack of words at the beginning where the conflict is Rose vs Coral (1060 words). And then there’s a bit at the end where the conflict is Rose vs Max (873 words), followed by a coda that’s Rose vs Lian about Max (275 words).

Obviously the solution is to cut everything that’s not Rose vs. Junior. But I don’t wanna. I like the way Rose and Coral’s friendship is introduced because it also sets up Rose’s world. I like the stuff with Max because it establishes his character before the next scene, which is his, and also connects him to Rose so that reader has a romance contract right off the bat. (I think the reader sees Max as the love interest. I hope the reader sees Max as the love interest. That’s the plan.) And I like the coda with Lian at the end because it rounds off the beginning stuff with Coral: The reader knows these are her two closest friends and Max is her love interest (I hope), so the character set-up in in place.

But that’s what I want. What the reader wants might be something entirely different. Anytime I find myself saying, “I really need to set this up,” I put the brakes on. Reader don’t give a damn what I need to set up, they just want a story. And a story that starts with a 3000+ word scene starts slow.

On the other hand, it’s a first scene. So maybe . . .

I don’t know. So I’m putting it up here again. I might have done this before, but there’s been a lot of rewriting since then, so if you have some spare time and want to read this, what I need to know is:

Is this too long?

Does the conflict switch too often? Rose’s goal never changes, but the antagonists do. I think.

What parts read slow and you think should be cut?

And I thank you for your help.
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