It took me four years to write this The Devil in Nita Dodd, as anybody who’s a regular reader of this blog can attest. Whenever anybody asks why it takes me so long to write a book, I go into detail, but the truth is really simple: I rewrite a lot trying to find the story. I started Nita in 2016 and continually and obsessively revised dozens of times, each time getting closer to what the story I needed to tell. Below are five versions of the first scene, that show how my discovery drafts work (write down the scene as it first shows up without worrying about structure, character, logic, or sense, then revise, revise, revise, revise, revise . . . ) and how the story and the character evolves. A first scene must not only introduce the protagonist, foreshadow the conflict, and indicate the presence of an antagonist, it must also set the scene–time, place, community–the mood, the style, the voice of the author, and in a romance novel, the promise of a love interest coming right up. Backwards and in high heels.
In short, first scenes are a bitch. Here’s the evolution of the first scene in The Devil in Nita Dodd., over four years. (Really, I’d just read the first and the last; reading the same scene five times just turns it all into gibberish.)