Sunday, January 11, 2009

That All Important First Chapter - Six Tips to Getting it Right

Nothing in your book will work if you don't get that all important first chapter off the ground. No agent will read it if you make mistakes right off the bat. So, as we're heading into our final revisions, here's somethings to watch out for to avoid that first chapter clunker.

1) Description: Don't start your book off with page after page, or even paragraph after paragraph of description. Not even sentence after sentence. Don't describe the characters in detail, or the setting, or the mood. There's time for all that later. Introduce the characters, preferably in action, at or just before a big moment. Then you'll get your story off the ground. Description can come later, but even then, with modulation. There's no room in today's writing for endlessly, long, leisurely descriptive passages. I skip over reading those. Don't you?

And no matter what else you do, don't start your book with descriptions of the weather.

2) POV: From the get-go, make sure your POV is tight and clear and your voice firm and strong. Don't be wishy washy, you'll lose the reader.

3) Action: As I said before, get the action going right away. There's no room for a chapter where nothing happens. Readers respond to scenes that start in media res.

4) Avoid Chiches and Cheesy Hooks: Draw the reader in naturally, with your story, not some prefab cheesy hook you think will get their attention. Avoid dream scenes, completely if possible, but certainly in the first chapter.

5) Backstory: We talked about this in the dreaded info dump. Don't launch into backstory on characters or place before you get into the plot. Readers don't care about your character until you make them care. You make them care by their actions, not their story.

6) Dialogue: Right from the start, make sure your dialogue is tight and strong. Again, don't be afraid to show strong voice. It's the only way.

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