The manuscript is back from the beta reader and the verdict is in.
Not enough backstory.
As an author, you don't want to bore your readers with an info dump right there in the first chapter. On the other hand, if you don't put in some backstory, they can't put the characters into the right context.
There is action, tension, but why are these people saying what they're saying?
So the first chapter must be re-written, to drop in bits and pieces of the history of the conflict that is at the heart of the manuscript. How much gets put in? That's the hard part.
With historical fiction, the author usually knows the subject matter well. So well that it's hard to pull outside of the past and realize that the readers aren't all so versed in that time period. They need a little guidance to orient themselves.
Today I head back to the source, to the history books that are stacked in piles around a bookshelf that is packed. I'll review key incidents and dates, write a rough draft that's all backstory, and then chop it up into a fine dice.
Those nuggets of information must then be distributed, here and there, just enough. After a re-write, the revised chapter will have to sit, to ferment, and to escape my thoughts. When I go back to look at it again, I'll need fresh eyes to see if the world I want my readers to inhabit is framed in, with a solid foundation and the rudiments of four walls.
Revising isn't as enjoyable as the writing. It's where the hard work of writing exists, when the author struggles to find the right word, the best turn of the phrase, and the shortest way to build an era in the past so that the readers know where they're at by the time they finish that opening chapter.