First chapters are important for various reasons, with the main one being you want readers to keep reading. You get one chance to establish a connection through empathy for a character or a curiosity of what happens next. Hopefully you’ll hold the reader through that first chapter and then they can’t help but go on to the next.
For children’s writers, we’re talking a few lines. An elementary school librarian told me that her kids read the first 5 to 6 lines and then say, “I don’t like it.” That’s tough for authors.
NO Second Chances
If you’re new to writing and have chosen a more traditional route to publishing, you want your first chapter submission to electrify that agent or editor. You want them to choose your story over the slush pile of submissions they’ve been reading that week. If you’re a self-published author, you want readers to buy your future books as well. You want satisfied, happy readers because they rarely give you a second chance.
I spend lots of editing time on the first chapter. I read it a gazillion times, and take it to my critique group several times, and then send it out to other friends as well. That first chapter sets the tone and theme for your book. It’s a solemn promise and your guarantee of adventure!
Here’s Your checklist on First Chapters:
1) Put a lot of thought into that first sentence.
2) Establish the where and when. Don’t confuse your reader at the very beginning.
3) First chapters may change once you’ve written THE END. Be prepared to keep rewriting, polishing again, and then some to clarify your theme.
4) Don’t begin the story too early. Avoid too much background, start with the human voice, and action. RICHARD PECK
5) Get ‘em by the shirt front and pull that reader into your book. Your job as the writer is to intrigue people. DUSTY RICHARDS
TAGS: first chapters, story craft, writers, children’s writers, first chapter list, editing