Saturday, June 4, 2011

First Few Chapters

I hate writing the first few chapters of a new project. The only time I haven't is when I wrote Hunted and, well, I guess that was a good sign. :-)

You always hear that the first line/chapter is important. If it doesn't hook a reader or an agent then you most likely need to re-work it. I think this importance puts a lot of pressure on me and other writers, so much that it makes starting a new story stressful. And, because I write from start to end, it often takes me forever to get going, which sucks because I just want to dive right in and write like a maniac, haha. Emily Dickinson is known for having chosen every word in her poems with the utmost of care and consideration, a practice that is time-consuming, but helpful, especially in writing that first line. But sometimes that first line just doesn't come out right at the start.

What are your thoughts on writing an effective first line and few chapters? What kinds of lines and introductions do you prefer?


  1. I don't create chapters until the editing phase. I just want to get everything down as fast as I can and worry about splitting it up for the best effect later.

    First lines are tough because the more imaginative they are, the more likely they are to pull you in and keep you there. I think my opening line will be the thing I keep editing until the last possible moment!

  2. It often takes me a couple tries to start a story, just figuring out exactly where it should begin. I'll end up switching it a couple times, moving it backward or forward in time as little as a couple seconds or as much as a few years, depending on the story.

    Once I've found the place that 'works' it usually stays. I start really writing and just go through the first chapter as quickly as possible because I know that whatever I do it's not going to be great. After I've got the novel done (or, at least, I'm fairly far in) I'll go back and re-write the first chapter several times. The content may change, but at least the starting place will stay the same.

    So, basically, it takes a lot of revisions that happen in two basic stages for me.

  3. I also don't worry about it until I'm editing. I usually have it all planned out before I start writing (I write from beginning to end) and am too antsy to get all the words out to take the time to perfect the first line and chapter.

    When I'm editing I can take the time to sift through words and perfect sentences. That doesn't happen in the first draft.

  4. After struggling to nail mine from January to now, I can finally say, without a hint of doubt, my first chapter is finally good. Amen! If I had to sit and think of a new opening I would probably drop dead.

    I realized that trying to make a good opening fails. Instead you need to let your characters speak to you and follow them onto the page. Fabricating a scene comes off as in genuine. It doesn't have to be action packed or even full of mystery, but it does need electricity, and that can come from the voice, or the situation.

    You'll be amazed what a good voice can do to a scene where a woman is watering her garden. I find quiet scenes have an uncanny ability to hook a reader.

  5. I just have to get the story out, and then afterward come back and fix the intro. I never, ever get it right the first time! The first chapter is SO hard for me. I do way too much telling, and have a hard time getting to the interesting action. I'm glad to hear it's not just me! (Not that I want anyone else to have that annoying problem, too.)

  6. I never write beginning to end, so quite often the first chapter and first line are the last to get written and by the time I get to them, I know everything else that happens in the book. Makes it easier to write a first line or paragraph that actually works with the book as a whole.

  7. I struggle with the first chapter, so usually, I write it and the rest of the story, and plan on rewriting about 6 times before moving to revisions. :)

    I agree.

    1st chapters suck.

  8. I've almost never written the first chapter first because I have only written in order one time, and that was because I had a writing partner :D

  9. LOL, Jolene. It worked well though!

  10. For me, I can write the beginning no problem... Whether it's something that works for readers or an agent, I'm yet to discover. Still, that's the part that always works... It's later when the plot gets more complicated that I start struggling..

  11. My first written chapters have never turned out to be my actual first chapters. But somehow, the first lines typically work out to be just about the same. I don't go for a really super gripping first sentence, because while I know that's important, if there's nothing supporting it right after, it just doesn't feel the same.

    I'm envious of others who can pull off a miraculous first chapter at once, though.