Being a writer – part 17 – the first chapter

Hi everyone,

Each journey, even the self-publishing journey, starts with a step. Last time, I posted a blog about that first step – the hook. This time, it’s the second step – that first chapter.

Firstly, a quick status update:

More progress on the writing front as the joint project now stands at nearly 14,000 words. Thanks to a leisurely brunch at my local Spur, I now have 5 chapters are down to the sequel to “Am I really a secret alien spy?” – totalling 8,500 words.

Why is chapter 1 so important?

As I mentioned last week, the hook is the opening few sentences of your first chapter. The first thing the reader will read, after your blurb. The first chapter is the extension of that. Get them interested with the hook and fascinated with the first chapter and give the reader a book they just don’t want to put down.

Your first chapter will set the tone for the whole novel. It showcases your use of dialogue, your characters and your world building.

So, what should you be putting in your first chapter?

Firstly, who is your main character? Tell us something about them. Why should we care enough to turn 300 pages to read their story? What is their goal? What are they trying to achieve?

Secondly, who’s our bad guy? Our antagonist? The person who is out to stop our main character from doing whatever it is they’re trying to do. Consider introducing some other major players in your story, but don’t overload with too many names.

Thirdly, set the tone of your book. You don’t want to confuse the reader who picks up your book based on the cover or blurb expecting a dark thriller and your first chapter is written as a romantic comedy. Your first chapter should be in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book.

Fourthly, when and where in the world (or outside the world) are we? Set a place, but without bogging the reader down in detail.

Fifthly, give the reader some conflict. Not the major conflict – that should come later – but a related conflict. Make the reader guess what will happen. It could be a life changing event or an early encounter between antagonist and protagonist.

And the end of your first chapter?

Finish on a bang. On a cliff-hanger. Make the reader want to know what’s going to happen next, so they turn that page and delve straight into chapter 2.

I hope that helps and you can get into writing that awesome first chapter now. If you need any help with anything related to self-publishing, contact us at Beyond The Vale here.

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