Dramaquill's All Things Writing

August 13, 2010

How to Write that excellent first chapter for your Novel

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Nothing is more important than the opening chapter of any novel.  As a writer, you have to hook your potential reader, often within the first couple of paragraphs.  If you do not have a strong opening and an enticing first chapter, chances are you won’t even get your book in print, let alone sell any copies.

 So how do you make your writing stand out from its competition?

 There are several scenarios to entice a potential reader:

 ¨      Conflict:   Have two people engaged in a heated argument

¨      Excitement:  Use a situation, like a first-time experience or arriving at an interesting destination or holding a winning lottery ticket

¨      Suspense:  Someone is being watched or followed

¨      Attraction:  Your main character has just entered a room and immediately feels an undeniable attraction to someone else

¨      Character:  Introduce us to someone unlike anyone we’ve ever met before.  Create strong characters with three-dimensional personalities so that we’ll care what happens to them

¨      Pace:  Keep the writing moving – don’t weigh it down with too much description

¨      Excellent Writing:  Strong prose/vivid language/active not passive/engaging

¨      New Ideas:  Don’t be cliché.  Make sure you’re writing something new, not just another version of what’s already been overdone.

Never settle for your first draft.  Writing is a craft that must be honed and tweaked until you create your very best.  You can achieve this in a number of ways:

 ¨      Read first chapters of published books in your genre and analyze what makes you want to keep reading

¨      Join a critique group (either online or in person) and get feedback

¨      Pay a professional to critique your work

¨      Put your chapter away for a few days and re-read it with fresh eyes, noting where you can make it stronger

¨      Revise…revise…revise until your writing sparkles

¨      Aim for your absolute best – don’t settle for anything less

¨      Watch out for careless errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar

¨      Read books on writing to hone your craft

¨      write…write…write – practice makes perfect after all

¨      Take courses online, by correspondence or at accredited institutions

 Ask yourself what makes you pick up a book and read it through to the end?  Start there.  If you write something you know you’d want to read, chances are others will want to read it too.

 From all that I’ve read from editors, publishers and agents, many writers submit work that just isn’t their best effort.  Don’t let that be you!

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