I hope you all had a refreshing and exciting holiday! My colleagues and I certaintly did and we are ready to hit the ground running! A New Year always brings a renewed sense of motivation, especially for those writers who are finally ready to get that novel written. While you may be ready to go, sitting in front of a blank screen not knowing where to start can be down right scary!
Why is that first chapter so freakin hard? You would think the middle would be an issue, due to the fact that it’s where your climax dwells. The end I thought would be hassle only because if my book ended on a sour note, it would make reading everything before it a waste of time. But no, the first chapter has been the bane of my existence ever since I started this novel two years ago. At this point, I could probably make a novel out of my chapter 1 rewrites!
After thinking about this for a little bit, I have come up with a reason why the first chapter can seem like the hardest: It’s called:
Chapter 1 Pressure
What is this pressure exactly? It’s the pressure to hook your reader in the first three pages. It’s the pressure to introduce your main character, your setting, and the conflict, while making your reader actually care about your story. It’s the pressure of not dumping back story but give your reader just enough information to keep them reading. As a fantasy writer, it’s the pressure of not boring my reader with tons of details about my new world but letting them know that this story doesn’t take place on planet Earth BUT not confuse the mess out of them either! First impressions are often lasting impressions and this is my first novel. If the first chapter totally sucks, the rest of it doesn’t even matter.
So how do you get over this Chapter 1 Pressure?
Well after you have a glass of wine (or mixed drink of you prefer), just write the damn thing. Write it knowing that it will probably stink the first go around and it will take you a few tries to get it right (and you still may not like it!). You have to get over that hump and take your novel to the end of the line, i.e the end. When I finished my first draft and saw where my story ended up, it made rewriting the first chapter a lot less painful. That’s because:
I knew where my destination was. I knew where my main character Damaris would end up plot wise as well as in her emotional development. As for plot, I have already written the climax and resolution of the plot of this book by finishing it. Now I can go back and make sure the first chapter doesn’t start too far away from the climax. That alone helped me eliminate a ton of back story. When it comes to my main character, Damaris is on the verge of being a total bad ass at the end of this book, so I have to make sure she’s the naïve and sweet little girl in the first chapter.
I know more about my world now. In the beginning, you can do all of your world building to a T, but I learned firsthand that during the course of writing the story, certain things have changed. I also took opportunities to introduce new things about my world Epsilon through other chapters, scenes, and character exchanges. Therefore, I had a better grasp of how much the setting I need to explain without a massive info dump – which is a chapter 1 no-no.
Have any of you writers had this much trouble with your first chapters? I would love to hear how you dealt with it!
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