Friday, July 08, 2011

How to Write the First Chapter of a Novel

Once a novel is planned, outlined, or plotted, it is time for the writer to sit down and start work. Writing an excellent first chapter of a novel is critical in attracting readers, not to mention agents and publishers. Many people will put down a book if it doesn’t hook them right away. This can make writing those first words intimidating. However, creating an excellent first chapter to a novel does not have to be that nerve-wracking, with these tips.

Start With Action

The first chapter doesn’t need to start in the middle of a battle, but there should be something happening. Lengthy descriptions of the scenery and clothing that the characters are wearing are the hallmark of a new writer. Few people can describe the scene in a way that is particularly interesting. Start the first chapter at the point where the main plot is beginning, and start at a point that something is happening.

Don’t Stop to Edit

No author writes perfect first drafts. In fact, it will take longer to edit a book than to write the original draft. Remember that when sitting down to write the first chapter of a novel. It is not supposed to be perfect and that is okay. The important thing is to get the story down on paper so that it can be edited and polished. When beginning a novel, just worry about telling the story. Don’t stop and edit until the first draft is complete.

Study Favorite Books

Almost every writer has a few books that inspired them, so why not make use of these great teachers? Take a look at the first chapter of any favorite books. Try to figure out what makes them so special. How are the characters introduced? What are they doing? While there are many helpful books on how to write fiction, actual novels can be the most useful learning tool for a new fiction writer.

Be Prepared to Cut


Many writers, particularly beginners, tend to write too much backstory at the beginning of their novel. Writers should study their first chapter carefully and ask themselves if this is where the story really begins. Does the reader need to know all of that information to enjoy the story? It may be necessary to cut the entire first chapter, or even the first few. That doesn’t mean they were a waste to write -- those opening efforts help writers get into their story and tell the rest.

Like any skill, writing is all about practice. The more a writer works on their craft, the better their stories will become. It may even take several novels before a writer can create a publishable one. But if they do not get the first chapter down on paper, they will never have that chance.

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