I've been thinking about the importance of beginnings lately. (Book beginnings, that is.)
...which reminded me of an experience I had with my first novel, Beethoven in Paradise.
We were all wrapped up with the manuscript and ready for the galley proof stage.
In the meantime, the cover artist, the fabulous Caldecott illustrator, David Small, (of So You Want to Be President fame) was reading the manuscript in order to prepare the cover.
He made a casual comment to my editor that he thought the story really started at Chapter 3.
My editor wrote to me:
Dear Barbara, Brace yourself for a last-minute suggestion for Beethoven in Paradise.
Uh, oh.... not what you want to hear at this point in the process, right? (Especially the "brace yourself" part.)
But she went on to say:
What would you think of starting the book with your present chapter 3? It has the punch we were looking for and introduces the conflict..."
And of course, I had one of those head-thwacking DUH moments. Why hadn't I thought of that?
Now here's the interesting thing: That change did not require changing a single word. Not one. We literally lifted chapter 3, moved it to the beginning, and let the original chapter 1 follow it.