WRITING YOUR FIRST BOOK PART 3: THE FIRST CHAPTER
Writing your first book is not an easy feat, and there are a lot of different factors that take place. If you have been following me on this series, or you have just joined, I am covering the fundamentals of writing your very first novel and preparing you for what is to come. Pretty exciting, right!
Part 3 of this series talks about your first chapter. This is where the curtains are pulled back and the show begins. It can be downright terrifying because the cold hard truth is that if the reader doesn’t like your first chapter then they probably aren’t going to continue reading.
BUT, don’t worry, my fellow writers. There are 4 components of a first chapter that you can implement to ensure your readers stay.
Remember, this article is the third in a series of writing your first book, and everything here is to help you achieve your goal. What is in this series? I’ll remind you:
Part 1: Where to Begin.
Part 2: The First Sentence.
Part 3: The First Chapter.
Part 4: Tools and Tips to Continue.
I’ll also have an awesome checklist for you in part 4 where you can implement these teachings.
Let’s jump into your first chapter!
YOUR STORIES PROMISE
Your stories promise is the most important part of writing your novel. Putting all the techniques aside, your stories promise is why you are writing this novel, who you are writing it for, and how you want to connect with your readers.
This can be through an emotional or intellectual level. This promise must be an ongoing theme throughout your story, otherwise, you can come across as an amateur due to the inconstancy and can essentially leave your reader feeling unsatisfied.
RELATED: How to Write a Plot Outline
STRONG OPENING LINE
Last week we spoke about creating a strong opening line and the different components and types you can have in your novel. A strong opening line is something that embodies your stories promise, as well as draws the reader in through intrigue.
My all-time favourite opening line is from ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien:
‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’
I am immediately intrigued and interested in reading more. Remember, there are 6 components of a strong opening line:
- Emotional connection
And 7 different types of opening lines you can use for your first sentence:
- An action
- A character
- A Setting
- A thought
- A statement
- World building
Find what best suits your story, holds to your promise, and creates a strong sense of intrigue to draw your reader in.
You can find out more about opening lines in Writing your First Book: Part 2.
So you’ve created the opening line, awesome! Now it’s time for the body of the chapter. This is the part that is going to keep your boat afloat by keeping the reader interested. What do you include in a supportive body? Here are a few examples and considerations:
- The length of the chapter: too short and you may not capture your reader’s interest. Too long and you can lose it.
- A number of scenes: the length of your chapters will affect this, and there is no hard and fast rule, but generally speaking 4-5 scenes per chapter is a good place to start.
- Switching POV’s: I wouldn’t recommend that in the first chapter, as you don’t want to confuse your reader, but thereafter go right ahead!
The most important thing is that you want to excite, interest and intrigue your reader, but at the same time not make them feel overwhelmed by the experience.
Practice makes perfect at finding that right balance. Remember, your first draft is just that, it’s not the finished product so allow yourself some breathing room for mistakes.
Whether or not you leave your reader with a question or a cliff-hanger, your reader is left with an ultimatum: do they continue reading?
Hopefully, the reader feels some sort of connection to your main character by the end of the chapter, so how do you keep them invested in your MC and make them turn the page?
The most effective and exciting ending is to leave the character on a cliff-hanger. It sparks several emotions in the reader such as fear for the character, intrigue or wonderment.
Another way to leave your reader wanting to turn the page is to create some sort of conflict in your ending. This can be through an argument, emotional turmoil or even a barrier in the surroundings of your character that does not allow him/her to pass and continue the journey.
Conflict creates tension. Tension creates curiosity. Curiosity turns the page.
All finished. Let’s chat!
Congrats, fellow writers. The first chapter can feel intimidating, but with practice and the right strategies, I believe you can do it!
Let me know if writing your novel part three: the first chapter, treated you well, and if you think there is anything missing that you would like to learn about.
Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!