Chapter One


I finally wrote Chapter 1.  I’ve been working on this book for my whole crazy life about 4 years now and I’m just now writing Chapter 1.

I thought I had Chapter 1, was sure of it, but … alas … no.  I’ve apparently been faking my Chapter 1 all this time and had no idea.

This is how writing works.  You think you have it, you think you know what this is all about, this chapter and paragraph and sentence writing stuff, and you’re going right along with your happy-dance of a story and BANG.  You don’t even have the opening.  You don’t even have your first words.

A year ago I went to a writing workshop for two weeks —- I’ll be going back to that same workshop shortly —- and I remember meeting with our leader and her saying, “I think you’re six months to a year from finishing this book.”  Of course I nodded my agreement, but you know the cartoon fireworks were going off and I was thinking really really loud, “Six months?!  A year?!  No way.  I’ll be finished with this book by the end of summer.”

And then there was Chapter 1.


I’m writing like a madwoman this week.  Is there a bigger moon?  It’s hot here.  93 yesterday; 80-something today.  I’ve got a military-esque routine going, which I kind of love, and the dogs certainly love, so it works for the house.  Last night I woke up at 2 am, wrote some stuff down, turned on the TV for the latest episode of “Housewives of Orange County” (crazy women!), and ended up going back to bed in the dogs’ room.  I turned on the light in there so I could find the bed without tripping over them and they all looked at me like, “Um, huh?”

Today on our walk I was listening to music instead of the usual audiobook.  I heard an old favorite.  When I first moved to northern California, I would listen to this song every single morning on my dog-walk, always on the way back, coming up the hill, the last steps to our new home, enamored with the story and the alliteration of “A California life alone…”  I guess that was a whole other Chapter 1…

25 thoughts on “Chapter One

  1. Erika Marks

    Teri, how did you know that is one of my very favorite songs AND I pulled those lyrics and put them down in my journal when I moved to SOUTHERN California. Kindred spirits, my friend.

    I have been having Chapter-One-itis on my end too. It’s funny–I was tearing through the first chapter and then hit a road block which doesn’t usually happen to me (usually it’s more Chapter 5 or 6) but I’ve been rewriting this bloody chapter now for over a week. Ack. Can we blame this too on the pollen count?

    1. Teri Carter

      I blame everything on the pollen count. Is the the worst year ever? I’m even ready to get one of those machines to put in the bedroom to get all the pollen (and of course dog dander) out of the place.

    1. Teri Carter

      I’m used to doing this circling back for essays and short pieces, but I think I was hoping the book-thing would be different. It’s not different, just longer. And harder to keep it all in my head at once.

  2. Bruce Horton

    I had not heard that song for years………still knew every word…thanks for including it….so many memories flooded how music can do that so easily…….xoxo Misty says keep writing Chapter 1 and she likes the doggie cartoon! xoxoxoEvy

    1. Teri Carter

      I will be leaving my desk for one reason later this week — to visit you and get my Misty fix! What’s cuter than a 12 wk old golden puppy? Ummm, nothing. 🙂

  3. tdapra

    After several years of doing nothing with my manuscript, I have finally returned to it. In the last few weeks I have revised chapter 2 and 3 and I suppose I’ll do chapter 4 next… but I’m TERRIFIED of chapter 1. I know it’s a mess. It probably needs to be broken up into 3 chapters. I don’t know what to do with it, so I figure if I just avoid it for a while (see: structured procrastination: an answer will emerge. I’m jealous of your writing zone!

    1. Teri Carter

      Don’t be too jealous, Tara. It took me years to get to Chapter 1. Remember when you first started writing and you’d hear writers say, “It took me 8 years (or 10 or 12) to write this book.” I used to think: no way, not possible.

      Yes. Possible.

  4. Lyra

    I am so excited for you. Getting the beginning right seems to portend the beginning of the end, yes? You are going to nail it at the writing conference. Yay you!

    1. Teri Carter

      I feel like I’m ramping up for lots of writing and inspiration and the like at the writers conference —- and preparing for very little sleep in that un-airconditioned dorm room. 😉

  5. Averil Dean

    Oh, right ON, you! You badass writer-chick, you’re fixing the fucker!

    I’m in a similar nostalgic mood, by the way:

    Bonus points for sparkly shades.

  6. girl in the hat

    It is exhausting, isn’t it? And that first chapter is so freaking important. And that first sentence. The thought of it is paralyzing.

    (Write on, sistah!)

    (Dog room? Really!?)

    1. Teri Carter

      Ha yes! The dog room is what you get when your kids leave home and set up their own houses. You suddenly have a spare bedroom where you toss dog beds on the floor. And come to think of it, I kind of tuck them in. 😉

  7. Josey

    nice! (i love that image of you stumbling into the dog’s room.)

    once i made some joke in a post about a david loggin’s song and got multiple emails from die-hard fans who were not impressed and did not think my joke was funny. it was kinda surreal, like they were all hanging out in a cafe somewhere, trolling the Internet to keep any anti-loggins fans in check.

    1. Teri Carter

      How about that mustache and hairdo? He could have been any of my uncles circa 1977.

      Sleeping with the dogs is an interesting exercise. They snore and smack their lips and shake their ears … and you can hear me about 15 times saying in my own low growl, “hey, knock it off over there.”

  8. jpon

    Ah, you remind of the book I thought was two-thirds done before I realized it was gong nowhere. Chapter One, here I come…

  9. suzy vitello

    Ramblin’ girl, why don’t you settle down? Ha. Nice fixin’ the fucker as Averil says.
    Now that I’ve actually seen your casa, I have such a perfect picture of you and your dogs and the heat and it’s all so glorious.

    Yes, chapter one. It’s a slippery mother fucker. A shape-shifter. Like a boyfriend that just won’t commit. Or something. You’ll nail it though. I know you will.

    1. Teri Carter

      Suzy, I’m going fix this fucker and finish this fucker if it’s the last fucking manuscript on this earth!

      (there. that feels better. 🙂

      It’s been a long, and hot!, Wednesday.

  10. Catherine

    You’re hilarious! The dog room! I bet my hounds dream about a place like that. Get on with it girl. On with Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5.. I know you can do it!!

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