In fact, I finished editing the first chapter of Rabbit and Cougar. This took much longer than expected, as it needed significant rewriting, but I'm quite pleased with the result. In my first draft of the novel, Cougar tells a long story about - get ready - the past life of a character from Cougar's past life, someone who never shows up in the story. Here's the thing: when I begin a novel, I tend to know:
A. How it starts
B. How it ends
C. A few things that will happen in the middle, and
D. The important characters, or most of them.
I do not know how things get from A to B, as it were. I don't know what might be important later in the story, and I tend to give characters free reign to do and talk about things which sometimes turn out to be extraneous and need to be removed in editing. In this way, I think novels can be easier than short stories - certainly easier to start. In a short story, it's difficult to start unless you pretty much how the whole thing will happen. At least, this is the case for me. All that said, I think that I have now, when starting a novel, a better idea of whether certain things will be relevant or not.
Anyway, in the second draft of Rabbit and Cougar, I had changed the story from a full-length monologue in quotes to something like "he told them about ------," though with a little of Cougar's dialogue at the end. In this current edit, I removed this story and actually managed to have Cougar talk about something more important - his own past. This is particularly important because I've changed his view on his past in this edit, and I want the reader to know from early on what he thinks about his origins. My main concern now is that the character may come off as too share-y. He's really fairly reticent, and reluctant to talk about his past, thoughts, etc., and I hope that in my desire to have him open up more to readers, I haven't made him open up too much to the other characters.
After finishing with Chapter One, I went around checking the lengths of first chapters in YA books - particularly fantasy ones - in my house. They ranged from 7 to 44 pages. Removing one outlier at each end makes the range 11 to 18, with each of those numbers representing several books. Of course, type size varied. This made me feel better, as I had feared that 17 pages was too long.
I have hopes that one or more young family friends will read and comment on the story once this edit is finished. How lucky that those kids I used to babysit are now in my target age group!