I went over the first chapter at least eight times, thoroughly editing it. This involved tweaking things, clarifying ideas, expanding sections of dialogue to deal with issues with more depth in terms of what the main character is thinking/feeling, really drawing out the significance of things for him, and providing a little more context for things through his thoughts and brief memories or associations. The chapter still reads quickly and easily, is not bogged down, but is more "enriched" and has more meaning now for the Reader.
It comes in now around 6,000 words, about three times longer than I intended at the outset, but at least I did a thorough job of establishing the main character prior to his embarking on "the journey" or "the quest", showing him in his "normal world" and what his priorities and concerns are, and "the rules" that he must live by, how things are for him. I also drew out the themes, the issues, the matters that concern him, setting up a sense of his hopes and fears that will be drawn out further in the remainder of the story.
I like what I wrote -- I am very happy with it. I like the depth, the way each character has a distinct personality. All of the characters have been evolving considerably except for the main character. He is the only one who has remained exactly as I first conceived of him. The role of antagonist has been making the rounds. First it was one character, then another, as I experimented with shifting roles and potentials. I've considered having the antagonist be a friend, a friend of a friend, and a stranger. I'm still leaving it open -- although I have a distinct plan, I had two other plans before that one, and I think once I'm actually writing it the antagonist will emerge naturally out of one or the other character and when I find him for sure, I'll know which version I'm writing. The basic storyline is the same regardless, but different characters would allow different slants on things, so it's something that will work its way out in due time. I'm not worried about it.
This is the first time I'm writing with a plan, several options (versions) to fall back on, and a sense of letting things develop as they do. In the past, I always wrote from inspiration with no or minimal planning, or from extensive planning that was stifling. My last novel was different, in that I planned extensively and was not constrained and actually wrote out what I planned. However, I think I can do better writing by merging structure and lack of structure, planning and inspiration. I want to try to take the best of both approaches. It's a balancing act, but I think I'm ready for it. I wasn't sure before, but I feel more comfortable trying this now. So far, it's working wonderfully.
I'll probably read over the first chapter again, but should move on to chapter 2 tonight and will hopefully have most of it written by tomorrow. I'll then spend another few days editing it as I did the first chapter. I feel this is one story that might need less editing, based on my experience with it thus far. I think if you get it right the first time, there is less to worry about in the editing. My last novel came together that well in the earlier chapters, but the later chapters still need substantial work, something I want to avoid in this novel. I can see readily how I'm growing and advancing rapidly after years on a plateau. Feels good to see real progress finally.
I'm going to update my WELCOME TO MY WORLD blog because there are some things going on these days that I just HAVE to comment on....