I'm in the middle of rewriting the first chapter, which is a mix of world-building, character setting, and action. I'm about halfway through the action and I'm already up to 3200 words (first draft, or draft zero, however you like to count it, was only 2770 words). And I'm stuck with a question that maybe you all can help me with.
Since the work is growing again, I'm thinking of breaking what was chapter one into two chapters. Now, while we jump into the action pretty quick, there is a natural lull in the middle of the action. I could break it at either 1600 or 1800 words (there could also be a break at 2600 words, but that only feels like a break because of the horror of the action slows the pace down slightly). At 1600/1800 words there is a bit of a pause that would allow a clean stop before starting the next action sequence. Literally going from one room to the next.
So, here's what I'm thinking. For an action scene, 3500 words (my guess of where it will end) feels way too long. The original 2800 was too long for the critique group (many people commented that it felt like it should have been a faster read). At 1600/1800 that would make the first chapter a fast read (and the second chapter coming in at about the same would have the same feeling). But then I would follow an action chapter with an action chapter instead of an action/rest/action/rest sequence (although I do have two rest chapters together later on). I could put some back story in between, but that feels artificial and would lead to a "Wait, we're about to die here, WTF are you doing going away from the action now" reaction from the reader.
What do you think? Would you be opposed to having two action chapters that concern the same characters right at the beginning of a book? If you knew the main character had just escaped death and was about to jump right back in would that lead you to "turn the page and keep reading all night" from a cliff-hanger approach? Or would you rather have a longer single chapter that left you feeling like you tried to eat the five-pound hamburger challenge because it would be free if you finished it, but now you're packed to the gills and there's still two more pounds to go?