As writers, we know that chapter one will make or break our book and that puts a lot of pressure on us.
We want to begin in just the right place, pick the perfect point of view, and somehow prepare the reader for the rest of the book without giving anything away. If we get it wrong, the first chapter might be the only chapter of our book anyone reads.
Don’t fret. Your first chapter, like any part of your book, won’t come out perfect on the first try and that’s okay. You may change which chapter comes first several times before arriving at your final draft.
If you are stuck on your chapter one, you can send it through to me and I can help, contact me here.
Below are four ways to master chapter one.
The real secret to polishing your first chapter is taking the pressure off.
For me, I believe finishing the first draft of your novel before editing but if this doesn’t work for you, write the first several chapters then get feedback from a trusted source.
Just keep writing.
As mentioned above, keep writing and finish the novel. If you labor too much over your first chapter right away, you might resist making necessary edits later on because you don’t want to waste all that hard work.
Write until you have your first several chapters. Focus on giving your readers a solid idea of your story’s characters and stakes right away. Hint at future struggles without giving too much away: what kind of journey are we beginning? Why should we keep reading?
Once you’ve done your best with those first few chapters, you’re ready to think about the next step.
Don’t judge your own first chapter.
Have you ever introduced a new date to your family or best friends and asked them afterward, “So, what did you think?” Most of us appreciate receiving approval from the people we love, but there’s more to it than that. Our intuition tells us that others’ first impressions can show us things we wouldn’t see otherwise.
My mother doesn’t read fantasy but I get her to read my chapters. If it doesn’t make sense to her then it won’t make sense for fantasy readers.
When we read the first chapter of a book, we walk in cold. Maybe we’ve read the jacket copy, but the first pages of prose are what really introduce us to the story world. This presents a serious issue when we try to evaluate our own first chapters. We already know our story and characters inside and out. That makes it impossible for us to know how our story’s introduction will land with real-life readers.
Find a critique group or beta readers you can trust.
Sometimes we are a poor judge of our own first chapters, we need quality feedback from others. You don’t need another writer for this, though it can be nice to exchange chapters with a critique partner. Look for someone who’s a strong, thoughtful reader and appreciates books in your genre. You need someone who will know what to look for and how to articulate what may need to change.
Feedback can come from a number of sources:
- Beta reader: an avid reader, preferably in your genre, who will read your work and provide constructive criticism.
- Critique partner: a fellow writer with whom you exchange chapters for feedback.
- Critique group: a group of writers who get together on a regular basis to discuss members’ writing.
I have made most of my connections on the social media platforms. Real-life writer friends or local writers’ associations can provide leads as well. As you evaluate potential beta readers and critique partners, remember to keep the best interests of your story at heart — and expect others to do the same.
Like I mentioned above, if you need a fresh pair of eyes and stuck on chapter one, you can send it through to me. Please contact me through here.
Don’t stress over the first chapter (yet).
Whatever you do, don’t let first chapter paralysis get the best of you. Your initial drafts of that important chapter one might be as bad as you feared, but that’s okay.
Right now, your only job is to keep writing. After that, feedback from trusted sources will help point you in the right direction.
If you have any questions, post your comments and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.