We’ve all heard the advice. Don’t obsess too much on the first chapter during your early drafts. Chances are you’ll make massive changes to it (or completely throw it out) before the book is finished. Until we know how the story ends, they tell us, we don’t know how it should begin. All good points.
The trouble is, I just can’t do it.
Perhaps I’ll do better as I gain more experience with writing, but right now, I just can’t move on with a story until I have the first chapter locked down—at least in part.. Knowing that I’ll probably have to rewrite it later doesn’t make any difference. If I don’t have the basic structure of the first chapter down on paper, my muse refuses to move on with the rest of the story. Even if I know where the story is headed next, without that first chapter to keep me anchored, I might as well be typing at random.
I wasted over six months on a MG story because I couldn’t decide how to begin it. I must have gone through a half dozen complete rewrites of that @#Y%^ first chapter, none of which worked the way I wanted. I tried moving on to later chapters, but I kept running into roadblocks that required knowing what had happened at the beginning. Eventually I admitted defeat and moved on to different story.
Fortunately, I had a pretty good idea how the opening scene in this new story (YA paranormal) should go, so progress has been good—at least for a slow writer like me. It’s quite possible I may come back later and totally trash the first chapter, but I don’t care about that now. I’m moving forward and that’s all that counts.
P.S. This doesn't mean I've given up on the MG story. Every once in a while, my mind will drift back to it and I’ll think of yet another way to begin the story. All these ideas are safely stored away on my computer for a rainy day.