NY Book Editors
10 Tips to Nail Your First Chapter
This is an extra resource to go along with the original article:
How to Write a Chapter
- Avoid prologues. Start your first chapter as close to the action as possible. Prologues tend to slow down the reader.
- Resist the urge to “set the scene.” Starting with a description of the novel’s world can also drag the story to a snail’s pace.
- Develop a strong narrative voice. The reader connects with a unique voice. Make sure that voice is present from the first word of the first chapter.
- Define the inciting incident that starts your story. Then, start your first chapter right before the incident begins.
- Introduce the protagonist in your first chapter. However, don’t feel as if you need to peel all of the layers of your protagonist right away.
- Set the stakes. What happens if the protagonist doesn’t act?
- Give the reader a glimpse into the protagonist’s motivation. What doesthe protagonist want to happen? What does the protagonist not want tohappen?
- End the first chapter on a page-turner. Give the reader a reason to staywith your story.
- Don’t forget to structure the chapter like a mini-story with an arc.
- Edit out anything in your first chapter that doesn’t propel the storyforward.