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Challenges writing Merciful Law – Darby Rae

Challenges writing Merciful Law

There are many moving parts in writing a novel: plot, setting, character development, dialogue, the beginning, the middle, the end…and that’s all before editing and marketing!  Hands down, the most difficult part of the entire writing process for Merciful Law was the editing.  When it came down to the actual writing, the biggest challenge for me was the first chapter.

Readers have different levels of patience when it comes to engaging in a book.  Personally, my attention span is 30-35 pages…about 30 minutes.  If a book hasn’t hooked me by then, I’ll put it down…and probably won’t buy books by that author again.  I know people who will read the first chapter (at the book store or on the author’s website) to decide if they will even buy the book.  Knowing this, I was highly critical of how the book started.

My editor may have an exact count, but my conservative estimate is the first chapter was re-written seven times—not edited, but re-written.  My first iteration of Merciful Law had roughly 60 pages of lead in.  After the first review with my agent, (once we both stopped snoring—and laughing—and snoring) we decided to cut the majority of that content and ensure the important events or information were referenced later (without boring the reader with details).  

So after cutting easily 50 pages out and rewriting the first chapter three or four times, I thought I had it.  Then my agent read it to her husband (first time he heard the beginning).  He said—it’s good…but, (of course there was a but) …very predictable.

Predictable!  He may as well have called it dull–but when I re-read it, he was right.  So I wrote and rewrote and re-rewrote until the first chapter, although containing the same events, wasn’t ‘very predictable.’  I wanted readers to be stunned, curious and conflicted (deciding if they liked Lawrence or hated him, felt sorry for him or thought he may have gotten what he deserved.) 

My lesson learned—I had three goals for that chapter.  One–NOT to be predictable.  Two–to have readers experience it with surprise, emotion (hopefully conflicted), and curiosity.  And three—hook readers to want to read more!

Now I want to hear from you…if you’ve bought the book great, if not you can read the first chapter on the website, either way read the first chapter and tell me how you received it. Were you conflicted? Did you like Lawrence or hate him? What was your experience? How did it make you feel? Most of all, did it make you want to keep reading?


  1. Darbe,

    I’m hooked. Read the first chapter online, buying book now. Looking forward to the read! I agree, I decide about the book by chapter 3 so authors better grab me and suck me in, then keep me turning the page every day. I love a book that I cannot put down. If I put it down and forget about it, likely I won’t ever finish it. Best of luck on book sales!

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