A/B testing a chapter

msstice

200 words a day = 1 novel/year
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You have to imagine us all sitting at Ye Olde Public house (St. George and the Dragon. The Dragon is serving the drinks) and I'm venting about my writing. The only way you can give proper advice on this is to actually read the two versions of the pieces (one of which hasn't been written yet). But that hasn't stopped us before, eh?

Haven't had this kind of block (as it were) before. I'm actually quite frozen. My opening chapter starts out on the frontier. Nothing quite shattering has happened yet, but there are hints, a vague unease sits in the air. My second chapter is back home on the ranch, with the frontiersman's friends living their humdrum lives. Two friends have uncovered information about the mysterious frontier. One piece of information ("The omen") is a direct foreshadowing of what will happen to our hero out on the frontier. The other piece of information ("The letter") is a bit vaguer but will stimulate our imagination towards the end of the book, and will ultimately lead to events in Book 2.

Ch 1 ends not quite on a cliffhanger, but in a way that you feel something's gonna happen. I hope by Ch 1 you like my characters so you're hoping they'll be OK. "The omen" in Ch 2 stirs your worst fears (as it does for our friends back on the ranch). "The letter" is more of a curiosity. It adds to the mystery of the frontier, but it doesn't signal anything - yet.

Here's my dilemma. I'm worried that "The letter" will dilute the impact of "The omen". I'll be giving people some information they don't need yet, addling their minds. Why not give it later near when it will come in useful and can stand by itself? Well, I don't want "The letter" to be dumped right at the end where it'll feel too pat. "Oh by the way, I just got this letter! Do you think it explains The Omen?" I'd rather have the letter come earlier and marinate in my reader's head so when all the fireworks are done, so to speak, the reader and the characters go: Hey! Couldn't the letter be linked to the omen? And so "The Letter" is remembered and read out.

Now that I've told you my dilemma over this virtual drink, I might have a way forward. I'll cut out details of "The letter" from Ch 2, but hint that it exists. In the middle of the book, I'll reveal some things related to "The Letter" in passing, but the fireworks will overtake it. Near the end of the book, when the fireworks are done, our characters will remember "The letter" (and so will we) and it will be read out (so to speak). At this point we'll make a connection between "The letter" and "The omen" and there will be a nice jumble of clues and untied ends related to these two that will motivate Book 2 as a sequel.

Enough drinking, and talking. Back to writing!

Thanks for listening, by the way. Have one on me.
 
I might have a way forward. I'll cut out details of "The letter" from Ch 2, but hint that it exists. In the middle of the book, I'll reveal some things related to "The Letter" in passing, but the fireworks will overtake it. Near the end of the book, when the fireworks are done, our characters will remember "The letter" (and so will we) and it will be read out (so to speak). At this point we'll make a connection between "The letter" and "The omen" and there will be a nice jumble of clues and untied ends related to these two that will motivate Book 2 as a sequel.
This is more or less what I was going to suggest, but you beat me to it! I'd agree that you don't want too much of it in the early chapters taking away from the the mystery over the Omen, but you can't leave all mention of it until the very end as that will seem too contrived. I'd agree it's best to have a number of references to it before it's given in full detail, to keep it in the reader's mind -- 3 or 4 times perhaps, or more if the word count is long.

Mine's a white wine spritzer, by the way. ;)
 

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