This week we've got a question from crafty Kerri at CK Farm:
Ok here is my question Lisa and Laura. Are you ready? You threatened it out of me, lol!
Topic: First chapter woes
I have done my first chapter over several times and was wondering if this tells me something about my story or am I just obsessing to get that hook, line, and sinker. Any advice to get that first chapter perfected would be nice! I hate to think it would send me into a bag of twizzlers stress eating!
Kerri C at CK Farm AKA Kerri C at the funny farm!
Oh Kerri, we have been there, my friend. I can't even tell you how many times we've rewritten the first chapter of Pemberly Brown. In fact, we've rewritten the first chapter of all of our manuscripts approximately a bazillion times.
First chapters are critical because agents, editors and readers decide whether or not to read the entire manuscript within a few paragraphs. No pressure or anything.
But don't panic because we have a full proof system for perfect first chapters:
1. Avoid cliches. Confirm that you aren't opening your manuscript with one of these tired cliches. Sure writers get away with this stuff all the time, but why risk it?
2. Conflict is key. One of the easiest ways to engage your reader is to make sure the central conflict of the manuscript is clearly described within the first chapter. It's really hard to hook your reader without conflict.
3. Start at the beginning. Um, duh. This seems kind of obvious, but make sure your first chapter starts where your story actually begins. Don't start with an infodump or backstory.
4. Get a second opinion. And a third, and a fourth and a fifth, uh yeah, you get the idea. The more people you have read your first chapter, the better. Brave enough to hear the answer to "Are you hooked?" Then enter one of MSFV's Secret Agent contests. This is a great way to get feedback from other talented writers and a literary agent.
5. Take the leap. Eventually you're going to have to take a leap of faith and send out your manuscript. Whether you're sending queries to agents or sending a new manuscript to your editor it can be hard to let go and stop tinkering. But in the words of the immortal Demi Moore in the cinematic masterpiece Indecent Proposal, when you love something you've got to set it free. Well, something like that anyways.
Hope this helps a little bit Kerri. First pages are a bitch!