6 Tips to Improve the First Chapter [Video]

 

I’ll admit it, my first chapter was not what I thought it would be… there are many areas I can improve.

I counted 6 areas — at least. In this episode, I’m going to highlight six editing tips that you can use when you start writing and editing your first chapter. It is an important chapter, so it is worth taking the time to get it right. You want to introduce the character and the setting. You want to show off some flair and mystery, but you don’t want to cross the line: offer too much backstory, describe the character too much, or miss the opportunity to do the most important thing: tell your story.

1. Know where your story starts

Are you starting in the middle of an action sequence or a moment of intensity? Or are you starting by easing the readers into the story with a regular average day set up? Knowing where your story begins allows you to set the tone for your story.

2. Don’t Over Describe

You may want to impress everyone with your wonderful word choices, but don’t overload it at the start. The important thing is the story. Allow the actions to illustrate your character’s traits and save some of those well-written descriptions for when you really need them.

3. Have a Main Character

Your readers will need a guide through the plot. It can become hard to follow if multiple characters are jostling for the main storyline. You can switch characters later on, sure, but at the beginning, it is advantageous to appoint a character with the lead.

4. Cut Backstory

Don’t overload your first chapter with too much backstory. It is easy to do because you, as a writer and creator of worlds, want to get all the juicy details, history, and lore onto the page. Which is fine. But you are going to have to cut it in the second draft. I must remind you that backstory, although may play a critical role in the story itself, it is also more impactful if the history can be revealed in a way that it feels well blended into the plot. Too much backstory slows everything down.

5. Don’t Mislead

It might be tempting to add a twist or a surprise into your novel right off the bat. Nothing like a good shock to hook your readers, right? Unfortunately, misleading your reader can piss them off and cause them to put down the book and go off and do something that they know will have an appropriate payoff, like cleaning the house. I implore you to avoid starting any story with a dream or simulation sequence.

6. Can it Be a Short Story?

Forget everything else about your novel. Throw it all away. Actually, don’t. Just put it aside. Take only your first chapter and ask yourself, “If someone found this one the street, and they read it… will it be enough for them to have a good time?” If the answer is yes, then carry on.

I hope these tips helped, please let me know what you think. Love to hear your feedback.

 

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How Reading Out Loud Improves Writing [Video]

Always read your writing out loud. Like tasting the food before serving it, reading out loud allows you to identify the nuances of your creation, the elements you wouldn’t notice if you simply read silently.

How does reading out loud improve your writing? Well, your brain is a powerful machine, it is able to piece together information, even if the information is not complete. If a word is missing, your brain would be able to fill it in. It’s actually quite remarkable that it is capable of doing that. However, you don’t want your audience — those that are experiencing your writing for the first time — to get tripped up by missing words or odd sounding sentences. These stylistic slip-ups can distract your reader and take them out of your story.

Reading out loud is the most effective technique when editing. If you skip this step, you might end up with a manuscript containing a lot of embarrassing mistakes.

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