Sunday 13 October 2013

The Opening Chapter

Firstly, I’d just like to apologise for the delay on getting this blog posted. I have been quite snowed under this week with other work as I am currently studying towards my PGCE which is eating into a lot of my time. 

However, with that said, here it is at last! This weeks blog talking all about the all important Opening Chapter. Today I have Jonathan Lee and Jack Croxall on board with me to offer up some top tips on how to write your first chapter. 

I’ll kick it off then with a few amateur tips. 
So, where to begin? I only have one answer - the beginning! It sounds a stupid response but where better to start? Try to include action to grip your readers because that is what it’s all about. GRIP GRIP GRIP! Encourage something thrilling on the first page, something that teaches your reader that something is about to happen and conflict is just around the corner.

As previously discussed, a synopsis is key to writing for me. So when it comes to writing the first chapter I will only do this when I know where my story is going. As with the characters, make sure what you’re writing is believable. No matter how ‘out of this world’ your story is try and offer something your readers can relate to, or recognises.

The beginning of your story should set the tone of your whole novel. It is also key to introduce your main character and make sure he/she is interesting and likeable by your target audience. Just think about all the things you want to find in a book on the first page. What do you want to learn as soon as you start to read an authors words? Take inspiration from other authors but also, take inspiration from yourself. 

So top tips: 
  1. GRIP your readers
  2. Include action
  3. Introduce your leading characters as soon as possible
  4. Think about what you would want to see in an opening chapter. 

Now it’s time to hand it over to the professionals: 

Jack Croxall says: 

I think the key to firmly grabbing any reader’s attention is to – well, how would you feel if I didn’t tell you just yet? 
It’s that same familiar mixture of intrigue and annoyance experienced in other areas of life that convinces a reader to stay between the pages. This feeling comes before a reader has got to know a book’s characters, and before they’ve fallen in love with the author’s writing style. 
I think this is what any first chapter should do; ask a question – the more mysterious and captivating the better. It is only natural for humans to want to resolve a situation, and if a reader is invested in the question from the offset, then they’re so much more likely to read the rest of any novel too.
You can follow Jack on Twitter: @JackCroxall or visit his website:

Jonathan Lee says: 

It wasn't until The Radio was finished and going to print that I realised the importance of the first chapter.  I was fortunate as I kind of accidentally fell on my feet by introducing the radio (which plays a major part in the story) in the first three pages.  This was done on purpose from the point of view I wanted to the reader to be introduced to straightaway to the radio and also, to bring the name of my novel, swiftly into focus.  

However, it wasn't until after I finished that I realised just how important this was.  Stephen King suggests that all stories should start with a impact chapter to immediately make the reader want to know more.  My second novel, The Page does just this, beginning with a dark event on a horrific evening.  This time the page itself doesn't appear until near halfway through. 

My advice is easy.  Either drag the reader in straight away with something that will hit them and go straight for the jugular or alternatively introduce something that will intrigue them.  You need to make them move easily on to chapter two.  Also, I would recommend you introduce a least one of your main characters in the first chapter.  You need the reader to be immediately be interested in that character and want to continue the journey with them through your story.

You can find Jonathan on his website: or follow him on twitter via @J0n4th4n_Lee 

Well that’s all for now folks. Thank you for tuning in and for your ongoing support. Also thanks to my amazing contributing authors - without you I wouldn’t be getting very far! 

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