The First Ten Chapters

Saturday, August 08, 2015

     Right now I am entering chapter fourteen of my rough draft but I thought that a blog post on the first ten chapters was a good idea since those are crucial to the overall book. In those chapters you must 1) grab/hook your reader, 2) introduce the story and plot, 3) introduce the main character and let the reader connect with them, and 4) keep your reader interested. Depending on the length of the book you're writing, whether it's a ten chapter novella or a sixty chapter epic, these four points still apply, they just might be more compressed or stretched out; each book and story-line is unique to its writer.
     I think it might be helpful if I posted this in here if you don't know what type of book you're currently writing, or thought you were writing one thing but are actually writing something else:
     Short story: 1,000-7,500 words
     Novelette: 7,500-20,000 words
     Novella: 20,000-50,000 words
     Novel: 50,000-100,00 words
     Epic: over 100,000 words

     Currently, my novel is planned to have roughly thirty chapters and be around 85,000 words. It's a good idea to work out about how many chapters you're going to have, using your outline (because the number will change as the story unfolds, I started with thinking I'd have about 24), and how many words you'll need per chapter to get to your goal. For novels, most publishers want from first-time authors, 80,000 to 89,000 words; that's considered a safe range by literary agents.
     Now that all the boring stuff is taken care of, we can move on to the fun topics, at least I think they're fun. So, in chapter one you are writing the beginning of your book, obviously, and that needs to be your BEST chapter, like go out all with the best writing you have and just lay it down on the pages. But, make sure your writing style stays consistent throughout the story. You don't want an amazing first chapter then have the rest of your book be crappy by default because you set their standards too high. Find a way to start the book without just having your character go through their normal day, throw something in to mix it up a little. But, if the character's normal day is significant to the story, don't change it and just let them brush their teeth and eat their nutritious breakfast. Your first few chapters, unless you have a ton of action from the get go, will most likely be shorter than the others, and make sure you compensate for those words later in the book so you stay on track with your goal.
     Now, I can't really tell you how to write the rest of the chapters because they're your individual chapters, but I can tell you how I wrote mine and if it applies to you, then great!
     So, my strategy was to just write. Just write the words that come to mind and spill them onto the page and when your thoughts run out, go back and analyze and edit them. As long as you are putting down words, you're doing good. The rough draft is the rough draft and will not be perfect no matter what you do. One you finish the draft, you finally see the story for yourself in its entirety and can then change and add things as you please. You will never be pleased with the first page until you write the ending because your first page should connect to the ending of climax in some way; make it foreshadow events to come.
     I'm writing a YA fantasy series and I created my own world for my characters to explore. I created a history for everything in the world and even created a recipe for a pie that was made from berries specific to a certain area of the world (I know I'm weird, and no I haven't made the recipe because the berries don't exist on Earth, duh). If you want to write an engaging and believable book, you must believe in your world and you must be engaged in it. You have to know your characters and world better than you know yourself. If someone asks the name of the random man who helped your main character, you have to be able to tell them that man's name was George. George wouldn't like it if you forgot his name and that his three kids are named Maxine, Penelope, and George Jr. even if they don't show up or aren't named in the story.
     You also don't want to overwhelm your readers. Give them enough information to get along in the world and maybe a little more here and there. Don't tell them about Maxine, Penelope, and George Jr. but keep them in the back of your mind so you can whip them out at any moment to put a subplot in your story if you want/need to.
     Subplots. They are so incredibly important because if you want a believable story with depth, you need subplots. No one just ventures into an unknown word with only one task at hand. No. That's boring. They need hit some speed bumps and weasel their way out of them. Maybe they lose some people along the way, but it just adds to the story. Now your characters can be upset about that character's death and it can fuel their anger, motivating them to move on to their overall goal.
     Connections are also very important. In these chapters, if they are only the beginning and/or middle of your book, you should introduce these connections, but make sure you hold off on giving them away. Let your reader have time to soak it in and try to come to their own conclusions before letting them in on the secret. It's an inside joke and you don't want them to know about it yet. There is a necklace mentioned in the first two chapters that connects to something they'll learn about at the end of this book or the during the next one, I haven't decided yet. Connections are that "NO WAY! SHUT UP!" moment for your reader and you'll want a lot of them to keep your reader engaged in the story. If there aren't any of those moments for your reader, they'll get bored and stop reading, and that's not what you want. But don't go around making pointless connections. Have them mean something to the characters or the plot because if they serve no purpose, there still won't be a "NO WAY! SHUT UP!" moment. It's like when Darth Vader told Luke he was his father. Introduce some unknown baby daddy into your story and watcher your readers flip.
     Have fun with your novel and really make it your own. If you created your own world, remember that your audience can't see what you're thinking of so make sure you let them know. Tell them how vibrant the flowers are there. You are the ruler of that land and everyone in it. You can defy gravity at any moment and leave your character floating helplessly in the woods. You create the rules, but make sure they're realistic though; so maybe don't defy gravity.The characters are yours, play some matchmaker, kill a few off, break some legs and have another kid fight a dragon. The more peril the better. Create some drama, people love drama. Doing these things in the first ten chapters keeps your readers on their toes and they'll know that anything can happen at any second. Mixing up your tactics now is  great idea for creating suspense.
     Hopefully you found this helpful in some way and leave a comment below if there's something you want me to cover or if you have a question!

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  1. Yay, we need more good fantasy on the market. Keep up the word flow

  2. […] did three of these posts in the past; one for when I first started, one when I finished the first ten chapters, and one when I finished the first twenty chapters. They […]