My own first chapter
I thought I'd go ahead and post my first chapter in its current state so you guys could see a little bit of what I've been talking about. You can find a really early version of this in the Esfires Book Thread. It has come a long way from when I first began it, but the overall structure is still the same.
Stephen leaned over the edge of the rain barrel, eyes locked on the rat as it struggled to keep its head above the glassy surface of the water. His heart beat in wordless encouragement as the animal’s tiny claws scrabbled for purchase on the slime-slick wood.
The rat squeaked in distress and dipped below the surface. It bobbed back to the top almost immediately, but the rodent’s panicked movements had begun to slow.
Alright, Stephen thought, one more try. He eased the splintered end of a broken stave into the barrel. The rat paddled through the water and scrambled onto the plank but, as he carefully lifted the stave, the frantic animal groped for better purchase and slipped from the wood to splash back down into the water.
Stephen groaned in exasperation as the rat screeched up at him. Stupid thing. Doesn’t he know I’m trying to help? He straightened and tapped his fingers against the rim of the barrel as a last breath of wind from the dying mid-afternoon storm rippled through the leaves of the apple trees that stretched in neat rows from the back of the Gates family house. The orchards always looked strange after the harvest. The trees seemed almost naked.
He blew into his hands, warming his numb fingers. Mrs. Hill would have the hearths blazing, but Stephen preferred the bite of the autumn air to the different sort of chill he would find inside. The guests at his father’s harvest party would be milling around the parlor, the men smoking and murmuring over business, their wives harping over the minutia of small-town gossip. He resented the pretense of the whole thing, all that talk and nobody with anything to say.
Maybe he could poke his head in and get his sister’s attention. Elizabeth didn’t like these gatherings any more than he did. She might be able to escape without anyone noticing. At the very least, she might know how to save the rat.
He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. He knew better than that. As much as she might want to slip out, Elizabeth would stay and entertain their father’s guests. She’d always had a keener sense of propriety than he could ever muster.
Stephen was lucky enough that he’d managed to get away. His father was growing less patient with him as he got older, and Elijah Gates never had been a lenient man. At fourteen, Stephen was almost old enough to start taking over the responsibility for the Gates orchards, and that included relations with the other families in Hamlin. Before long, he would be suffering in stuffy parlors like everyone else. But not today.
He took a deep breath and dipped the stave back into the water.
The rat didn’t even bother to grasp at the wood this time, having little energy left for anything but a dogged struggle to keep its head above water. Soon, it would sink beneath the surface for good. Mrs. Hill would get quite a fright when she came outside in the morning to start the week’s laundry.
Stephen grinned as a thought flashed across his mind. “Jack, you might want to move.”
The elderly, sad-faced mastiff lazing in the grass raised its head at the sound of its name. It fixed him with a watery gaze and stretched its mouth in a jaw-cracking yawn.
Stephen withdrew the plank from the water and tossed it aside. “Suit yourself.”
He crouched, placed his shoulder against the side of the barrel, and heaved with all his might. It stood firm and his legs slid out from under him in the muck, bringing him to his knees and splattering his clothing with mud.
“Keep laughing,” Stephen said. “You’ll get yours.”
He rose to his feet and dug in his heels. This time the mud released its hold with a long sucking sound and the barrel tipped over into the yard. A deluge of water rushed across the grass, breaking over the mastiff in a wave.
The rat tumbled out to lie on the ground, sides heaving. After a few breaths it twitched and rose on shaky paws before scurrying under the steps leading up into the kitchen.
Jack huffed, spraying water from his sagging jowls, as Stephen righted the empty barrel. “I warned you.”
The dog cocked its head. It stood, shook itself dry, and trotted off.
“Don’t be sore,” Stephen called after the mastiff as it disappeared around the corner of the house. “You needed a bath, anyway.”
As his words trailed off, the wind brought a light tinkling to Stephen’s ears, followed by Jack’s hoarse woofing. He jogged after the dog and rounded the manor to find a pair of men walking up the gravel path that extended from the front porch out to the road.
He opened his mouth to welcome the late-comers, but fell silent at the sight of their brushed green coats and meticulously polished boots. The tinkling issued from the brass-handled sabers bouncing at their hips.
Re: My own first chapter
It was nice to be able to compare your story to an older version. You can see how much the writing improved, and it gives me an idea about what I need to watch.
Re: My own first chapter
How's the publishing process going for you, Esfires?
"It is my conclusion that all the manly french got sick of hairy pits, moved to North America and got some grade a indian poon, which directly resulted in the pathetic showing of french military might in the following centuries" - Norska
Re: My own first chapter
I'm at the stage of sending query letters out to agents now, and that's a stage that (if it is even successful) can take a long time. It's not unusual for an agent to take months to get back to you, even with a rejection. So in the meantime, I'm finishing up the plotting of my second book and am about to start actually writing it.
Originally Posted by Wulf