Chapter 1 is like a first date. Not a blind date — you’ve been thinking about this particular interest for a long time. But a first date for sure. Because until you’ve been out at least once, it’s only a hypothesis (relationships or novels).
What will come of it? Will it move forward to fruition (similar to, but not necessarily the same as, “Will I get laid)? Even — dare we say it — happily ever after? Peter out after a few dates (no pun intended)? Or will we be so disgusted by the end of the evening we don’t even bother to exchange phone numbers?
Every writer, and most writer wanna-bes, have at least one unrequited Chapter One. Or maybe an entire collection stored away for a “rainy” day, although if we’re honest, we know they’ll never see the light of day again. False starts that were doomed to go nowhere.
My last false start was just prior to Avalon, S.C., the novel I began posting yesterday. It had some outstanding characters, and Chapter 1 leapt onto the page. We even exchanged phone numbers. But ultimately it was too complex — and too serious — a novel for my simple, offbeat style. So now it’s in some folder, wondering why I don’t call. Sigh. Maybe someday.
What do you think about a WEI, Writer Efficiency Index? Number of Chapter One’s divided by Number of Novels completed. The lower the index, the more efficient you are at starting projects. I only remember 3 false starts, but there may have actually been another (there are parts of the 60s I don’t remember all that well). So my WEI is either 7/4 = 1.75, or 8/4 = 2.
Except that I’m not sure fewer unrequited Chapter Ones is truly an indicator of efficiency. Bailing out of a novel before it becomes a bad novel is certainly not inefficiency. Doodling around in things that stimulate the creativity is not necessarily inefficient either. So maybe we should just call it a False Start Index, or FSI.