I’ve rewritten the first chapter of my WIP about six times. First paragraph? Probably a few more than that.
I had received feedback from one beta-reader that my second chapter was stronger than the first. And another beta-reader informed me that she got into my book “after the first chapter.” After isn’t good. During is ideal.
The feedback encouraged me to take a closer look at what I had written. After extensive research—otherwise known as scouring the internet—here are the tips and related articles that really resonated for me about rewriting the first line, first paragraph, and first chapter of my novel.
Ways to craft your first line, including examples from classic books, are posted in this great Writer’s Digest article:
- make your opening line a statement
- use one of seven sure-fire concepts for that statement, such as:
- a statement about a simple fact: “I am an invisible man.” — Ellison
- a statement to introduce voice: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” — Nabokov
- a statement to establish mood: “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” — Plath
- all seven statement examples, and details about each, are here
And for help on the second sentence, check out this article: Guess These Famous Novels By Their Second Line.
C.S. Lakin’s article mentions the following about the first paragraph and chapter:
- showcase your protagonist
- start your opening scene off with a bang
- introduce your protagonist’s goal
Alexandra Sokoloff’s article gives it to ya straight, cursing included, about the first paragraph and chapter:
- provide an urgent, immediate event—something that tells what the story is about
- have the main character caught up in an action
- stay away from backstory
- use the six senses
Ann Weisbarger keeps it simple, reminding us that a first paragraph includes:
- person (main character)
Weisbarger says the first paragraph should be so powerful for readers that it will: “shake them by the shoulders, and spark a fire so high that they leap into the second paragraph.”
Now Novel suggests that one or more of these comprise the first chapter:
- unanswered questions
- intriguing actions or events
- troubling, unusual, or suspenseful scenarios
Do you have more tips? Please share…
I must reiterate, I’m no writing expert. My blog posts are merely a window into the challenges I’ve experienced while working on my novel. And I use my blog to share the resources and solutions that have helped me. I hope the tips I collected above are helpful for you, too, including these posts on Writing a Novel Synopsis and 3 Formulas for Writing a One-Sentence Novel Summary.
Now, let’s go finish our book!