Writing The First Chapter

What to Include at the Beginning of Your Novel

You’ve decided you’re ready to begin your story. Fantastic! Where do you begin?

What must you include in that critical first chapter? The first and the last chapters are the most important because they are where you gain and keep a reader for that novel and for future ones as well. In the first chapter the reader will decide whether to keep reading, whether they are interested enough to invest time in the story or whether to put it down, disappointed they wasted their money. The last chapter is where they decide to buy your next story.

This puts good, healthy pressure on us to write a great first chapter (we’ll talk about the last another time). The first chapter can be the most fun as well, but a lot has to happen, so let’s look at the various components that should be included.

The First Five Pages . . . and the First Sentence

Noah Lukeman wrote a great book titled The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile about how important the opening of a novel is and what should be included. A big part of what he shares with writers is that readers, specifically editors and agents judge our stories by how we open the story so it benefits us to get those beginning pages as polished as possible

Part of these beginning pages is the very first sentence. This sentence doesn’t have to be the most brilliant thing ever written, but it should lead us into the story. Think of any book you’ve read and really loved, wasn’t it that first sentence that made you settle in, knowing you were going to be taken on a good ride?

I’m currently reading, Who Makes Up These Rules, Anyway? By Stevi Mittman and the first sentence is:

“My name is Teddi Bayer. Not as bad, as say, Candi Kane, but still . . . .”