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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Writing The First Chapter: The Hardest Job Of All.

Last week I blogged about having enthusiasm when starting a new book, and how I have so many ideas racing around my head which I can't wait to write down on paper. This week I'm blogging about writing the first page or the first chapter of that book, and why that's the most difficult task of all.

As I said last week writers often have a copious amount of ideas when starting out on a new book, but those ideas can sometimes become jumbled. Writing the first page is an extremely daunting task in one sense because you're shaping the route your work will go down. And when you think you've only got another 89,000 words to write it can be an extremely frightening feeling indeed.

But I always look at it like this. No matter what you write or type on that fresh piece of paper, your opening scene will rarely stay the same once you have finished the book, as it's sometimes an impossible task to know how your story will end. Normally you have an idea, a goal you want to achieve in your last chapter, but more often then not your ideas will change throughout the book.

Some writers will cut a lot out from their opening chapter and put that work in other parts of the book. Some writers have a bad habit of information overload - revealing too much too soon. But if you save all of your work more often than not you can use it again in other parts of your book.

No matter if you have to re-write your first chapter ten times to make it fit in with the rest of your book, here are some points to consider when writing your first chapter.

  • You must introduce your protagonist and give a little information about them. Sounds obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how many books I have read that give the first three pages describing weather conditions.
  • Show the character's needs and what they want to accomplish. If the reader knows this then they have a better chance of caring what happens to your main character.
  • Make your protagonist believable, as in make them a character who could be a real person. unless you're writing sci-fi, of course. Even then you have to give them something which readers will be able to identify with.
  • Let the reader know which country they're in along with the time period. Readers will be able to engage so much better with the story once this has been achieved.
  • And finally introduce the antagonist - the character who will make your protagonist's life difficult.
So, how do you deal with your first chapters?


  1. Thanks Jay. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Co-sign on that...

    I have not yet perfected the art of the first chapter... I either run too long with prologue-ish or it comes out sounding completely different, tonely, from the rest of the story :-P

    plus my first chapters always start differently

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  4. Thanks Olivia for your kind comments. I'm glad to enjoyed the read.