Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On Writing First Chapters

Hey, look at me! I’m blogging. I’m a blogger!

Now that that’s out of the way, on to my inaugural blog post. And what better topic for a first blog post than a post about first chapters? I agree. It’s genius.

It’s also been the bane of my existence for the last six months.
I initially thought my current MS’s first chapter was a sparkling example of literary genius at its finest. It was full of witty insights into my character’s snarky persona. It dripped with back story. Similes and metaphors exploded off the page in Times New Roman wonder. It was funny. It was dark. It was clever.

It was all wrong.

Turns out I’d fallen victim to many of the faux pas writers succumb to when starting out their stories. It took me six rewrites, five beta readers, three fabulous critique/blog partners and one workshop to finally get it to the right place...I think. (Head, meet wall.)

The reality is, first chapters are hard. They’re also arguably the most important part of a story, because they need to entice readers (and for those of us aspiring writers, agents) to read more, while simultaneously setting a reader’s expectations for what’s to come.

It was somewhere around revision four that I stumbled upon this useful list of first chapter faux pas from Writers Digest: What Agents Hate.

Let’s just say I could relate to a few of the items on the list.

The article was a light bulb moment for me. Thankfully, I discovered I’m not alone in my struggle for the perfect opening and there are tons of resources out there that helped me wade through the chapter one muck. Below are a few of my favorites.

This post does a nice job of outlining how to approach first chapter revisions: The All Important First Chapter

This post has some handy tools to help you work through where to start your novel: Where To Start

In these posts, agent Kathleen Ortiz reviews the first 5 pages of several MS and outlines where (and why) she stopped reading: First 5 Pages Part One, First 5 Pages Part Two, First 5 Pages Part Three

More on what not to do: Don’t Do This, 13 Ways Not To Start A Novel

More on where to start: Opening Your Story

Have other great first chapter resources? Post them here!

Happy writing!

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