25 Things To Know About Writing The First Chapter Of Your Novel

1. Every Book A Hook (And The First Chapter’s The Bait)

A reader walks into a bookstore. Spies an interesting book. What does she do? Picks it up. Flips to the first chapter before anything else. At least, that’s what I do. (Then I smell the book and rub it on my bare stomach in a circular motion and make mmmmmm noises.) Or, if I can find the first chapter online somewhere — Amazon, the author’s or publisher’s site, your Mom’s Myspace page — I’ll read it there. One way or another, I want to see that first chapter. Because that’s where you grab me by the balls or where you push me out the door. The first chapter is where you use me or lose me.

2. Fashionably Late To The Party

Bring the reader to the story as late you possibly can — we’re talking just before the flight leaves, just before the doors to the club are about to close, just before the shit’s gonna go down. Tension. Escalation. Right to the edge of understanding — no time to think, no time to worry, no time to ponder whether she wants to ride this ride or get off and go get a smoothie because too late, you’re mentally buckled in, motherfucker. The first chapter is the beginning of the book but it’s not the beginning of the whole story. (This is why origin stories are often the weakest iterations of the superhero tale.)

3. The Power Of A Kick-Ass Karate Chop Opening Line Kiyaaa!

A great first line is the collateral that grants the author a line of intellectual credit from the reader. The reader unconsciously commits: “That line was so damn good, I’m in for the next 50 pages.” I could probably do a whole “list of 25″ on writing a strong opening line, but for now, I’ll say this: a good opening line is assertive. It’s lean and mean and cares nothing for fatty junk language or clumpy ten-gallon words. A good opening line is a promise, or a question, or an unproven idea. It says something interesting. It shows a shattered status quo. A good opening line is stone in our shoe that we cannot shake. Writing a killer first line to a novel is an art form in which there are a few masters and a great many apprentices.

4. The Gateway Drug To The Second Chapter

I’ve been to multiple Christopher Moore book talks, and each time he reveals something interesting about storytelling (and, occasionally, whale penises). At one such book talk — and this is me paraphrasing — he said something very interesting and a thing I’ve found true in my own reading experience: the more the reader reads, the more you can get them to read. Sounds obvious, maybe. But it goes like this: if you get them to read the first page, they’ll read to the second. If they can read to the first chapter, they’ll at least finish the second. If they read to page 10, they’ll go to 20, if they read to 40, they’ll stay to page 80, and so on and so forth. You’re hoping you can get them to the next breadcrumb, and as the novel’s story you space out the breadcrumbs — but early on, those first breadcrumbs (in the form of the first chapter) are in many ways the most important. Did I mention Christopher Moore knows a lot about whale penises?

5. Your Protagonist Has One Job: To Make Me Give A Fuck

If I get to the end of the first chapter and I don’t get a feel for your main character — if she and I are not connected via some gooey invisible psychic tether — I’m out. I don’t need to like her. I don’t need to know everything about her. But I damn sure need to care about her. Make me care! Crank up the volume knob on the give-a-fuck factor. Let me know who she is. Make me afraid for her. Speak to me of her quest. Whisper to me why her story matters. Give me that and I’ll follow her through the cankered bowels of Hell.

6. Give Her The Talking Stick

I want the character to talk. Give me dialogue. Dialogue is sugar. Dialogue is sweet. Dialogue is easy like Sunday morning. And dialogue is the fastest way to me getting to know the character. Look at it this way: when you meet a new person do you want to sit, watching them like Jane Goodall spying on a pair of rutting chimps from behind a duck blind? Or do you want to go up and have a conversation?

7. Conflict Is The Key That Unlocks A Reader’s Heart

Yeast thrives on sugar. Monkeys eat bananas. I guzzle gin-and-tonics. And conflict is what feeds the reader. Begin the book with conflict. Big, small, physical, emotional, whatever. Conflict disrupts the status quo. Conflict is drama. Conflict, above all else, is interesting. Your first chapter is not a straight horizontal line. It’s a jagged driveway leading up a dark mountainside — and the shadows are full of danger.

8. Steak’s On The Table

The reader will only keep reading if you provide them with an 8 oz porterhouse steak and — *checks notes* — oh. Ohhh. Right! Stakes. Stakes. Sorry. Let’s try this again: the conflict you introduce? It has to matter. We need to know the stakes — as in, what’s at play, here? What are the costs? What can be gained, what can be lost? Love? Money? One’s soul? Will someone die? Can someone be saved? Is there pie? The first chapter doesn’t demand that you spell out the stakes of the entire book in big blinky letters, but we do need a hint, a whiff of the meaty goodness that makes the conflict matter. And if all that fails, maybe try that “give the reader a steak” idea. Or pie. Did someone say I can have pie? I’ll have Key Lime, thanks.

9. Wuzza Wooza?

In the first chapter it’s essential to establish the where and the when of the story, just so the reader isn’t flailing around through time like a wine-sodden Doctor Who. But this also doesn’t mean hitting the reader over the head with it. You don’t need to spell it out if it’s fairly obvious, and you also don’t need to build paragraph wall after paragraph wall giving endless details to support the when and the where.

10. Mood Lighting

First impressions matter. Impressions are in many ways indelible — you can erase that thing you just wrote in pencil or tear up the page with the inky scribbles, but the soft wood of the table beneath still holds the impressions of what was written, and so it is that the first chapter is where the reader gets his first and perhaps strongest taste of mood. Make a concerted effort to ask, “What is the mood I want the reader to feel throughout this book? What first taste hits their emotional palate?” (Two words: PSYCHIC UMAMI. That is also the codeword that will get you into my super-secret super-sexy food-and-porn clubhouse.) That doesn’t mean you need to wring a sponge over their head and drown them in mood — you create mood with a few brushstrokes of strong color, not a hammer dipped in a bucket of clown paint.

11. Theme As Thesis

An academic paper needs a thesis — an assertion that the paper will then attempt to prove (“DONUTS ARE SUPERIOR TO MUFFINS. BEHOLD MY CONFECTIONERY DATA”). A story is very much like that. Every story is an argument. And the theme is the crystallization of that argument. Sometimes it’s plainly stated other times it lurks as subtext for the reader to suss out, but just the same, the theme of your story — the argument the tale is making — is critical. And just as the thesis of a paper goes right up front, so too must your theme be present in the first chapter.

12. The Mini-Arc Is Not Where All The Mini-Animals Go

Every story has a dramatic arc, right? The rise and fall of the tale. An inciting incident leads to rising tension which escalates and grows new conflict and the story pivots and then it reaches the narrative ejaculation and soon after demands a nap and a cookie. The first chapter is perhaps best when thought of as a microcosm of the macrocosm — the chapter should have its own rise and fall, its own conflict (which may become the larger conflict of the narrative). That’s not to say the first chapter concludes anything, but rather that you shouldn’t think of it solely as a ramp up but rather as a thing with a more complicated shape.

13. In Which I Contradict Popular Advice About Opening With Action

Opening with an action scene or sequence is tricky, and yet, that’s the advice you’ll get — “Open with action!” The problem with action is, action only works as a narrative driver when we have context for that action. Specifically, context for the characters involved in said action. Too many authors begin with, “Holy crap! Someone’s driving fast! And bullets! And there’s a robot-dragon chasing them! LAVA ERUPTION. And nano-bees! Aren’t you tense yet? Aren’t your genitals crawling up inside your body waiting for the resolution of this super-exciting exxxtreme action scene?” Not so much, no. Because I have no reason yet to care. Without depth of character and without context, an action scene is ultimately shallow and that’s how they often feel when leading off the first chapter. Now, if you can get us in there and make us care before throwing us into balls-to-the-wall action, fuck yeah.

14. Better To Lead With Mystery

You ever turn the television on and find a show you’ve never seen before but you catch like, 30 seconds of it and suddenly you’re hunkering down and watching the thing like you’re a long-time viewer? It’s the question that hooks you. “Wait, is Gary the secret father of Juniper’s baby? What does the symbol of the winged armadillo mean? WHO SHOT BOBO’S PONY?” (By the way, Who Shot Bobo’s Pony? is the phrase that destroys the universe. Do not say it aloud.) It’s mystery that grabs you. It’s the big swoop of the question mark that hooks you around the throat and forces you to sit. While action needs context, mystery doesn’t — in fact, one of mystery’s strengths is that it demands the reader wait for context.

15. Eschew Exposition, Bypass Backstory

The first chapter is not the place to tell us everything. Don’t be like a child overturning his bucket of toys — then it’s just a colorful clamor, an overindulgence of information. Exposition kills drama. Backstory is boring. Give us a reason to care about that stuff before you start droning on and on about it.

16. A Fine Balance Between Confusion, Mystery, And Illumination

It’s a tightrope walk, that first chapter. You want the reader drawn in by mystery but not eaten by the grue of confusion, and so you illuminate a little bit as you go — a flashlight beam on the wall or along the ground, just enough to keep them walking forward and not impaling themselves on a stalagmite.

17. Flung Off The Cliff

TV shows generally follow a multi-act structure, with each act punctuated (and separated) by commercial breaks. The trick to television is that it seems like a story-delivery medium that carries advertisements but really it’s an advertising medium that carries story: the networks need you to stay through the commercial break, not just to come back to the story but to sit through the advertisements. And the way they do this is often by ending each “act” with a cliffhanger of sorts — a moment of mystery, an introduction of conflict, a twist of the tale. Your eyes bulge and you offer a Scoobylicious “RUH ROH” and then sit down and wait (or, like me, you just fast forward on your DVR). This trick works at the end of the first chapter. A cliffhanger (mystery, conflict, twist) will help set the hook in the reader’s cheek.

18. K.I.T.

Keep it tight. Also, keep it short. Don’t go on and on and on. The first chapter is not a novel in and of itself.

19. Voice Like Bull

You never want your writing to feel limp and soggy like a leaf of lettuce that’s been sitting on the counter for days, but this is 1000% more true when it comes to the first chapter. Your voice in that chapter must be calm, confident, assertive — no wishy-washy language, no great big bloated passages, no slack-in-the-rope. Your voice must be fully present. All guns firing at once: the full brunt of your might used to sink the reader’s resistance to your writerly wiles. BADOOOOM. *splash*

20. On The Subject Of Prologues

The prevailing advice is, “Prologues can eat a sack of wombat cocks, and if you use one you will be ostracized and forced to eat dust and drink urine, you syphilitic charlatan.” Harsh, but there it is. Also, wrong — a prologue should never be an automatic, but hell, if you need one, you need one. Here’s how you know: if your prologue is better used as the first chapter, then it’s not a prologue. It’s a first chapter.

21. Fly Or Die, And Why

Since you’re a writer, you probably have bookshelves choked with novels. So, grab ten off the shelf. Read their opening chapters. Find out what works. Find out what sucks. What’s missing? What’s present?

22. Sometimes The First Chapter Is The Hardest To Write

Writing the first chapter can feel like you’re trying to artificially inseminate a stampeding mastodon with one hand duct taped to your leg. That’s okay. That’s normal. Do it and get through it.

23. More Time Under The Knife

What that ultimately means is, a first chapter may see more attention — writing, editing, rewriting, and rewriting, and then rewriting some more — than any other chapter (outside maybe the last). That’s okay. Take the time to get it right. It’s also okay if the “Chapter One” you end up with looks nothing like the “Chapter One” you started with many moons before.

24. An Emblem Of The Whole

You’ll notice a pattern in this list, and that pattern is: the first chapter serves as an emblem of the whole. It’s got to have a bit of everything. It needs to be representative of the story you’re telling — other chapters deeper in the fat layers and muscle tissue of the story may stray from this, but the first chapter can’t. It’s got to have all the key stuff: the main character, the motive, the conflict, the mood, the theme, the setting, the timeframe, mystery, movement, dialogue, pie. That’s why it’s so important — and so difficult — to get right. Because the first chapter, like the last chapter, must have it all.

25. For The Sake Of Sweet Saint Fuck, Don’t Be Boring

Above all else, don’t be boring. That’s the cardinal sin of storytelling. If you ignore most of the things on this list: fine. Don’t ignore this one. Be interesting. Engage the reader’s curiosity. The greatest crime a writer can commit is by telling a boring story with boring characters and boring circumstances: a trip to Dullsvile, a ticket to Staleopolis, an interminable journey to the heart of PLANET MONOTONOUS. Open big. Open strong. Open in a way that commands the reader’s interest. Fuck boring.

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  • im going start of by saying i have never had an interest to write, i have never even finished a reading a book. i don’t have proper grammar as you can see and if was not for ms word spell check i would probably have a spelling mistake every third word so most of you season writer are probably wondering what the fuck am i doing on this post. well here is the thing, i started writing and yes i dear say it my first novel and i know most of you given my previously mentioned lack of literature is also wondering why the hell would i even attempt such a foolish act and this part im not particularly proud of but a few months ago i got significantly high, again this is not something i do a lot so don’t judge. so there i was high and board as shit and this is where the idea came in to write. started with pretty much all of the pointer that was given in this post and before i knew it a pretty fucking crazy story started evolving in front of me i was hooked could not stop. wrote a few pages before the cat ran out my system 2 days of writing later. My first thoughts of the “novel” after i woke up sober of course was OK i obviously thought what i wrote was good at the time cause i was high so i didn’t even attempt to read it i could remember the story line and plot that i did think was good but could not really remember the details and how i opened up the story. when i did finally decide to read it, it was freaking good (to me that is) and i pretty much nailed every pointer on this list. needles to say i had to carry on unfortunately some mind altering substances had to be thrown in the mix. again i am not a druggy it was for creative purposes only! i wrote a few more pages and judging by these pointer i may very well have kick as story here. i need someone to look at what i got and tell me if i am wasting my time and keep my day job. The ting is I`m actually really enjoy this thing called writing I would like to get some pointers and see where this “grows” pretty sure every novice writer thinks there shits the shit when in fact it is shit.

    • Realistically every story needs structure and if it’s not there then publishers are unlikely to take you seriously. My advice would be to learn more about the specifics of grammar etc. Also, if you read you are far more likely to be able to write a story effectively. Good luck.

  • Stop trying to sound like a trendy idiot. Holy fucking shit I cannot take anything you say seriously.



    • hahahahahahahahaha hey Thumper, who spat in your morning cup of … um, what do non-trendy people drink these days? Cause it certainly can’t be coffee, that shit’s far too hip.

      I think it’s called ‘relevant’, not ‘hip’, my friend. Or ‘go read something else, dum dum’. Or, ‘c’est pas un competition, le mec. Oui, sa bite est plus grand, pfff, mais ce n’est pas sa faute’. Or ‘you didn’t pay for it, please stop acting entitled my dearest white American male’.

      La la la. Let’s all be friends, non? Friendship is free! Just like online bloggies!

      I like these lists, even if they’re hip and repetitive, because they’re like a mantra. Just throwing it out there.

  • “The only good princess is a very fucking dead princess.” From one of the questionable, grey-morality guys, as well as the the very first line in my novel.
    Is that enough of a first line hook?

  • Awesome. I’m in the midst of my first novel and i read a lot of web pages about it. I found this page at just the right moment. Open mouth, down the medicine…writing get better!

  • Thanks for the tips, they really helped! I’m 13 years old and I want to write, no correction…I NEED TO WRITE. Anyways I just wanted to l thank you for the awesome tips again!!! :)

  • Just a note on front covers, it’s the first thing we see and a big reason we even pick up a book in the first place. Like to say that if anything hits the nail on the head, its Blue Blazes, fecking awesome, thats how its done.

  • I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog today doing a search on First Chapters – (I am working on – you guessed it – chapter one, and am having challenge between “setting the scene” vs. “info-dumping” – it is indeed a fine line). Anyway, loved it. Lots of great info told in a very fun and entertaining way. I don’t have any problem with the profanity. Fuck anyone who does. :-)

  • Thank you so much, this is probably the best blog I’ve ever read for creating first chapters. There was a lot of information and it wasn’t boring to read. Yes! Thanks again.

  • (Louis) That’s what editors are for. I make mine work for it! Don’t let education or fear hold you up from writing. If you feel like you have something to say, say it. Don’t be a chump and live in fear and what ifs!

    For everyone else I would highly suggest that you finish the entire book first for several reasons.
    You will be a better writer when you get to the end.
    Things will have evolved and changed greatly by the time you get to the end.
    Once you get to the end you start back at the beginning and add all your notes, all the flavor and all the ideas you grew while you were finishing the first draft garbage that is going to be a great story!
    So don’t get hung up on the first chapter…. just finish and keep a notes file… Push through.
    You can do it.

    To the author-thanks for writing this. My protagonist was a bitch that nobody liked, but I went back through and made her a funny bitchy that you couldn’t help but like-and that made all the difference.

  • As a reader, I disagree with the first point – about going to the first chapter before anything else. Before reading anything in a book I will:

    1. Know what shelves I am picking the book out from. Meaning, I know the genre.
    2. Read the title.
    3. Read the name of the Author and expect something about the book if I know the author
    4. Look at the cover. Design, illustrations any tag lines, “By the author of…”, recommendations from other Authors etc.
    5. Skim the text on back or on the flap (??)

    If I have not put the book on the shelve by now, it’s because I want to read it — IF the author have a style I like. So I open on a random page and read.

    If I like what I read, then I will buy the book. But I will save the experience of the first chapter until I sit in my favorite chair with a nice cup of coffee.

    So, speaking as a reader, the first chapter is not important when it comes to selling the book to me. Once I begin reading though, it will be the first impression, and of course first impressions are important.

    • This is exactly what I do. After perusing the cover, bac and/or flaps, I flip to the middle somewhere and scan. I figure the middle will be the flabbiest, the place where the author is most likely to have let down their guard. Mwahahahaha.

    • Really? Because, I really do smell the book, read the first sentence, and if I like it, I will cradle it like baby. Not to mention, sing it lullabies.

  • You really don’t need the foul language to get the info across to your readers in this instructional text. It turns off the reader & is quite low class. Please consider all possible ages of readers here & elevate yourself to a higher, more respectable level, because you have some really good points to share. May God grant you mercy & love through His Son :-)

    • I would not have understood the emphasis the was trying to convey without the necessary foul language. Golly Sally, this is a blog for real adults writing gosh darn serious novels with bad things in them like murder, sex and even taking the Lords name in vain. The way this post is written is amusing, kinda like the post above that says “The only good princess is a very fucking dead princess.” See now if that said The only good princess is a dead princess we would all ((((Yawn))) and toss that book aside. Because a dead princess is ho hum, but I do want to know how a princess went from dead to very fucking dead.

      And this is why we have parental controls on the internet, and another thing called free will. So you can change the page if you don’t like the language.

      May the God’s be ever in your favor. :D

      • July 18, 2014 at 12:52 AM // Reply

        Stacy, I disagree. The “F” word doesn’t add the interest you think it does to your opening sentence Profanity is fine in a story, if it serves a purpose. In the context of your first sentence, the reader would naturally assume “very fucking” means nothing except the character curses which might be important to establish but it doesn’t add a bit of intrigue. It could imply something else like necrophilia but that wouldn’t cross a normal person’s mind unless there was something on the cover of the book or in the title to suggest it. That would make me toss the book before I could read the first sentence. No one will wonder how she went from dead to “fucking dead”- no one. Expletives are yawn. Profanity lost all shock value decades ago. If you need to establish the character curses then fine, if you are referring to necrophilia (since you seem to hint “fucking dead” means something more) then fine but it doesn’t add intrigue.

  • old article is old, but just a note, as a reader… I don’t decide if I’m going to read a book because of the first chapter. I’ve read too many books by now that get a few chapters in and drastically change quality, mood and overall content. I’ve even read a number of books that seemed interesting but innocuous enough but took a sudden turn for the disturbing to the point where i wished it was the custom to use trigger warnings was used beyond the tumblr sphere. Some writers probably think this is good or daring storytelling, but i stop reading all books that leave me feeling sick and shocky, sorry. (you may say it’s a sign of good writing if it can affect the reader that way… nope. sorry. triggering doesn’t work that way.)

    So when choosing books, I look at the blub, the author, and then i thumb through the *middle* knowing that writers are trying too hard in the early chapters, you won’t get a taste of the real style there, and you’ll have a better idea if there are nasty surprises lurking…

    the first chapter “hook” is a myth, IMO.

    • Yours is the second post I’ve seen where the reader will pick up a book and go to the middle.

      I respect your choice to skip to the middle, and we all do what we do, but don’t many authors change the order of chapters and scenes after writing them?

      I know I started with Chapter 1…but it ended up Chapter 3. Other chapters were moved as well which makes me question why the middle of the book is often what sags (I’m not disagreeing, just posing a question)

      I think it would depend on the author…how they write and edit/re-write as to how much time they spend on a particular area of the book/story, IMO.

      I don’t think the ‘hook’ is a myth, but just like fishing, not all breeds of fish bite the same type of hook…

      There just really isn’t a formula that will apply to everyone (unless you use Einstein’s E=MC2 formula which applies to the universe…but let’s not get crazy.)

  • I’m editing my first novel, and my first chapter was terrible, so I completely redid it a couple of months ago. I’ve progressed since then, and I can see that it’s still terrible. Opening lines are nightmares to write! Reading through a few pages like this has really helped me though. If not in terms of actually getting words on the page, then at least in getting my mind to the right place for it.

  • Im having a bit of trouble with my first chapter I have the opening scene start out with a city being destroyed then it cuts off and you have the main characters being chased by a gang and well theres a lot of action but im not sure any thoughts criticism is welcome

  • I’m attempting to write my first novel and just completed my first chapter. I went on the prowl to see if I could find any helpful hints about writing the rest and stumbled across your page. Absolute freaking brilliance. :) Thanks so much for your help and for the smiles that ensued.

  • I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you. I have read over 30 books on writing so I have heard most of it, before but you said it cleverly and succinctly. I am trying to understand the layers of novel construction and apply them as I write my first novel. I am writing my novel in scenes, not in chapters as I have read that chapters are something editors add later. I have two possible beginning scenes. One is pretty dramatic but short. It starts with a literal storm and a mystery too and is only 1000 words or so. The next scene is longer and gets into the meat and potatoes of the story world and is 3000 words. It starts with a mystery, lays out the story question, makes the protagonist sympathetic and sets the mood for the novel. I really like the second scene more but chronologically the story starts with that storm and it is short and it really grabs you. I feel like there is a disconnect between the two scenes. Chronologically the storm happens on a Monday and the next scene happens on a Friday night. I know you can introduce a time lapse with a simple, “3000 years later on another planet” but I hate starting that amazing scene with “The following Friday night” and I hate it because I edited that first paragraph quite a bit when it was the opening scene. Adding a time reference for it bothers me and it wouldn’t anywhere else in the story. I want so much to just make that first storm scene a prologue but I know how you feel about prologues. Again, thank you. I enjoyed your piece.

    • July 18, 2014 at 1:04 AM // Reply

      I realize my problem reading my letter. I was too emotionally attached to the first sentence in 2nd scene because I wrote scene 2 as my opening scene. I simply added the phrase, “The following Friday night…” to the first sentence starting scene 2 and I no longer “needed” a prologue.

  • June 26, 2014 at 10:52 AM // Reply

    I see that someone else has already posted here that they are working on their first novel whilst possessing minimal familiarity with the fair maiden we call literature. I too, have begun such a challenging expedition into the arts. I’ve never had much patience for reading, I tended to prefer my more visual or audible mediums. This might be because of the modern tube contraption of witch-craft and sorcery that we call the Television. As well as the dumbfounding story medium known as video-games. At any rate, though I haven’t been an avid reader minus a couple books, I do possess a high devotion to creativity, be it through drawing and painting, music production, poetry, etc etc… I have attempted writing a novel in the past, a multitude of now dead projects that cultivated the potential for great stories. However… I would get bored before even finishing the first or at most second chapter. This all changed recently though with what simply started as a way to pass my dauntless and poorly directed time spent as a security officer. I’m halfway through with chapter 3 now and I have found myself obsessing over my own book. Drawing it’s characters, composing a soundtrack, drawing assets like group logo’s. All I seem to be able to think about is writing this book. Actually it would seem that the book seeks solely to write itself with me as it’s pen. It’s like I’m reading a book that that’s writing itself before my very eyes. The scenes and characters have brought me to tears as I write about them and other times on the verge of breaking something as I experience their anger right along with them. I’d like to think that those are just the quirks possessed by an eccentric would be author. Though I dare find myself inclined to be more optimistic. I took a brief break from my writing to read your lovely post here. This book has become my diamond in the ruff so I seek to make it shine as brilliantly as possible preferably with the radiance of a thousand suns. My writing style seems to have taken on that of my drawing style which accumulates like a search and find for the right stroke, the appropriate mantel to act as not just the spine of the whole but the single specific nano particle within a singular cell of the spine. Creating a level of detail so fluid that all of the detail is subconsciously taken in leaving only the unification of the whole for the conscious mind. I have gone back and done so much tweaking already and there is still so much left to do before each sentence is perfectly chiseled and carved like a picturesque roman statue. I saw what you had mentioned in terms of a prologue. This brings me some amount of concern as I chose to use one that I, matter does it little, gave the title of an Introduction instead. It is in regards to this that I wish to pose but a simple question: Would you consider such a device as an “Introduction” or traditionally a “Prologue” necessary if it facilitates necessary background information that leads up to the current events by evaluating the fine details of the settings past and present that would otherwise cloud and clot the structural balance of the chapters themselves? On a side note, thank you for the interesting post. Though it helped me, it also served as an excellent source of entertainment as I drank my mornings first cup of coffee (which I supplement as a condiment for my sugar and creamer).

  • Your writing style is hilarious, and your advice is excellent. I’m happy to see my first chapter fits all of the criteria. :)

  • Best damn advice i’ve gotten about writing. I love it. Definitely had me rearranging my characters while reading this blog. I’m in the embryo stages of my book so i’m afraid of making any changes, i just want to keep going for now while the creative juices are flowing. Then once i’m done, and i don’t know when.. i’ll go back. I wrote the first few chapters in the past week. Of course it’s a memoir, so the jump off was pretty cool. Now i’m struggling to see where it’s going. As i’m writing this, i realize that i already have a strong beginning and end. I just need to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. Thank you so much! Peace. :)

  • I’m pretty much in love with you after reading this blog post.
    You hooked me. The irony lies in the fact that you’re writing about ways to really engage and hook readers in your first chapter and you effectively used all of the steps you proposed…
    Subscribing now. Thank you for being you. -Kate

  • Holy fucking balls – you had me at whale penises and inseminating mastodons. Let’s get this motherfucking first chapter out the door and melt some minds!

    • And I don’t think regular people have to put on their pseudo-intellectual shoes and make big asses of themselves in public over an author’s word choice.

      You clearly haven’t read a lot if you think this is somehow abnormal.

      • I personally appreciate the use of 4-letter words beyond what general consensus would likely deem socially appropriate. I used to be more conversationally conservative until my exposure to Louis CK’s stand up routines shook the living pretentiousness out of it. And the man speaks the truth, so it’s tough to argue with how he chooses to express it. I’d have to agree with ‘The Don’ in author’s prerogative to express their position as they wish; because ‘taste-appropriate’ or not, opinions which stunt one’s self-expression usually counter authenticity, progress, freedom and creativity.

  • I just love your sense of humor. Your 25-points are on-point and I will absolutely incorporate them into my novel(s). Thank you for the wisdom, and the loud chuckles (numerous and public-inappropriate).

  • When You’re afraid to write, you hang around on websites seeking advice. The one thing that would make you an accomplish writer is to sit down and write that first two terrible novels no one wants to read. I bet you if you don’t give up at this time, you will write the next best seller!

  • Very informative. You have a great way with words and how you string them together to make me laugh. The article gave me a lot to think about. Probably gonna have to go back and check the first chapter of my novel now and see what needs doing to it.

  • June 6, 2015 at 10:59 AM // Reply

    Best advice I’ve ever read! I have been writing for a couple of years now and I know that the first chapter SUCKS! I am certainly going to use these tips in beefing it up. Thanks so much!

  • So… I’m going to save this page for months and books and stories to come. Starting with this one.

  • Excellent post. Laughed out loud while nodding my head. One question. Must it be the prologue (yes, I need one) or the first chapter with the killer first line?

  • I have always had a terrible time with first chapters. They’ve always been of the, “waking up and going to school/work” genre, or of the “everything is connected and here’s exposition and backstory” genre. I have never been able to write a really good first chapter – except in one, where I needed the prologue to set up some important characters as well as the premise for the first chapter.

  • As most of you can clearly see, we have multiple people posting their writing stories and the ways they first began writing. So, I think, I might as well add my own.

    To be completely honest, I started out my writing career on a rather low note. It was through fanfiction. I was always into reading, whether it be a thick Harry Potter book or a Hello Kitty bedtime story, I would sit and read and read and read. The first time I read fanfiction was when I got into the Percy Jackson books and shipped two of there characters together. I decided, after reading too many fanfictions to count, that maybe I would write one of my own. To say it was horrible would be a major understatement. I still look back on it and cringe, but I keep it posted up on the site I originally created it on to remind me or how far I’ve come. Now I’m working on my first full length novel and when I get writers block I turn back to writing fanfiction. I don’t post them anywhere anymore, obviously, but it helps me get through a lot of the struggles. I came to this article because I was having trouble with the first chapter of my novel. I had written it before, but after reading it at least 30 times, I realized it was almost as bad as my first fanfiction, maybe even worse. I edited and edited, but there was no way that the monstrosity that was this first chapter was going to become anything better. So I decided to rewrite it. After pondering over how to express the intro, I again came to a sad discovery: I needed to learn the basics to writing a first chapter yet again. I am not ashamed by this fact though, I’ll happily express that I need to go over these again. After all, you can never have enough ways to improve your writing.

    I’ve honestly reread this article so many times since writing my first fanfiction. It was essentially the only advice I was willing to take when I first began writing. And although my first work turned out to be a disaster (probably because I didn’t fully understand this article AT ALL), I still find this article the most helpful. People are saying this article was difficult to take seriously because of the sarcasm and “hip”, but isn’t that what writings all about? To express the writer in ways the real world can’t? If this article was bland and straight fact to fact, would you honestly take advise from it? Someone who doesn’t have even a writing style of their own can’t give advise to people who are trying to become writers themselves. So, all in all, this article has to be the best way to give advise to young writers who are just beginning. :)

  • Hi , your work is great, I have learned a lot regarding the information you revealed. I am working on my first novel and I am very excited. I am hoping it will be completed before my 53rd birthday in February. But, I do have one problem, which is ending my novel to be completed. I keep adding to it and I’m finding it hard to stop writing. Would you happen to have a suggestion why that is happening and or a meaning for the extra writing.

  • I bet there are some very useful tips in here, however, i am very sorry to say I could not read it. Way too many swear words. Thank you anyway! :)

  • OK I am young, I am a nerd ,and I have no idea what I’m doing. I have always wanted to write so I asked my mom for a promp . I have a kick ass idea and absolutely no idea how to start writing. Any opinions on where to start? This is not my biggest problem what I really want to know is how do I make realistic characters that people ‘ want to give a fuck about ‘ ?

    • Hi Tiffany. I was exactly where you are 2 years ago. I had an idea I just had to do something with, and as a science major had no clue how to approach a novel.
      I found The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing by the Writer’s Digest invaluable! I devoured it, made notes, and applied it to my own story. It made a tremendous difference for me, so it might be worth checking out.
      Good luck!

  • Hey Man, GREAT SHIT! Really good advice; I’m writing an apocalyptic Novel based on the effects of Global Warming now interfering with past laid plans of a New World Order, several charecters are venturing to the last semblance of true humanity–an underground enclave situated in an abandoned Pennsylvania Coal Mine…I would love and appreciate an opinion of the first chapter..whadda’ ‘ya think???I’ll buy ‘ya Gin and Tonic!
    Joe in Okla-fuckin’-homa!!

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