At last year's The Write Stuff conference, I took a workshop with Karen Blomain in which we submitted a first chapter from a work-in-progress and then we literally cut it (with scissors) and rearranged it to explore other possibilities for where the story starts and other examinations of our own structure.
As a newspaper person, literary re-arranging didn't bother me and I found the act of tearing paragraphs apart (literally with my hands and ripping) quite therapeutic.
Now, I find myself struggling with a chapter and it irritates me and I find myself falling back on some of Blomain's techniques. Where does my story start? Or in this case, where does my chapter start? What do I need to convey?
More importantly, how else can I start it? Most of all I'm lacking momentum. I feel like once I find the beginning that works, the story unfolds naturally, especially since this is no longer a first draft.
I tried weaving some memories in with the character's (Étienne) present-day worries, using some of that imagery to symbolize the problems. It felt cliché. I'm tempted now to give him a nightmare, similar to his wife's nightmare a few chapters ago. Similar but different. Her nightmare was literally her subconscious tapping into the magic around her. His nightmare would use those same memories I used earlier to show his feelings... but they could have a quick exchange later about how "the house" is making it impossible for them to sleep.
I hate the idea, but I'm tempted to try it because everything else does not feel right.
As writers, we often push ourselves where we don't want to go.