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Day 0 - Introduction

Hello, everyone! Welcome to Day Zero of the 5 Day First Chapter Challenge!

 

For this challenge, we are exploring everything that should (and should not) go into the first chapter of your book.

 

Plenty of people have had A LOT to say on this subject but, we think you’ll find some new tips within these next five days.

What’s So Important About My First Chapter?

 

Your first chapter is everything! It begins the story, and it is the first impression readers get of your book. A great opening thought, character introductions, world-building, and the anticipation of what’s to come all make first chapters wonderful! 

 

Except, here’s the thing, first chapters are subjective. Throughout this entire challenge keep in mind that for every “rule” there are exceptions. For Halie’s series, Secrets of the Tally, she was told not to start with the main character waking up. And don’t get us started on all the advice about prologues. 

 

OK, But What Are We Doing for Five Days?

 

The goal of this challenge is for us to explain the dos and don’ts of writing your first chapter. We want to give you strong reasons behind those dos and don’ts so you can make informed decisions about which direction to go. 

 

Alright, are you ready? Spend today getting your materials ready and we’ll see you on Day One. 

Day 1 - Beginning the Story

Welcome back to the 5 Day First Chapter Challenge!

 

Today we are looking at how to begin your story. Not begin the book.

 

Prologues have been getting some criticism lately because, oftentimes, they tell a completely different story. 

Let’s talk about inciting incidents–this is where the journey begins. It starts the main storyline. This incident is usually disrupting daily life for your main character(s); which means that you need to build that daily life first. 

 

Do not confuse this with starting the story in the wrong place. Your inciting incident may not be in the first chapter, but the first chapter should be directly leading to it. 

A Few Things to Remember

 

The most beneficial thing you can do for your opening is to be intimately familiar with your story. Knowing your overall story well allows you to be positive you are using the first chapter to begin that story. 

 

The inciting incident is the real beginning of the story, so don’t waste time getting to it. This is what gives your characters and story purpose. 

 

A Few Things to Avoid 

 

Don’t tell unrelated characters’ stories. That’s not the main story. Even if they’re important down the line if they’re not important now they shouldn’t be getting a whole lot of page time. Especially not in the first chapter. 

 

Also, don’t spend too much time building out the history of the world. That’s not the main story either.

Day 2 - Character Entrances

Welcome to Day Two!

 

Today will be familiar to those who took our 5 Day character Development Challenge (which you should totally do if you haven’t already).

 

We’re working on our character entrances, and how to make them as strong as possible. 

 

When it comes to your character entrances/introductions you must focus on how the reader feels about that character. How that character will be remembered? How do you want that character to make your reader feel? 

 

Only two paths really exist in this department: you can go for matching emotions (try to make your reader feel what the character feels) or mismatched emotions (you want the reader to feel something different than the character). 

 

Within the 60 Day Novel Writing Challenge, we have three tiers for character emotion. 

 

Amateur hour is simply saying what the character is feeling. A better option is to truly show what the character is feeling. The best option, however, is to make the reader feel those emotions. 

 

Which characters are introduced in this chapter? Is it possible to use fewer characters? 

 

A Few Things to Remember

 

The most important tip we can give you is to create a Reader-Character Connection. A strong connection helps to make sure your readers don’t put your book down after the first chapter. If a reader doesn’t care, they aren’t immersed in your story.

 

A Few Things to Avoid 

 

We hate to sound like a broken record, but “show, don’t tell”. Show us things about your characters instead of telling them. 

 

Don’t have too many characters to keep track of. Keeping characters in the opening because “they’re important later” is ultimately damaging. We only want them if they’re important now.

Day 3 - Creating the Setting/World

Hello!

 

Day Three is about creating your setting/world but, it’s not about HOW to create your world.

 

It’s about how to portray that world to your readers. (If you want to learn more about worldbuilding, check out The 60 Day Novel Writing Challenge.)

 

We cannot stress this enough, just give the bare minimum upfront. 

There is a fine balance between things being explained, and things happening. We do have to have both, but things happening will almost always be more gripping than things being explained. 

 

Readers have different tolerance levels of story-to-backstory ratios, and you will lose a lot of them if the story is not moving. 

 

A Few Things to Remember

 

We only want the information to be explained at all if it’s directly relevant to the story at that moment.

Sprinkle your information throughout. If you’re not sure how to do this (or if you’re doing it), today’s homework will help you recognize large chunks of information. 

 

A Few Things to Avoid

 

Do not have a Q&A with the designated question-asker character.

Avoid pausing the entire story to explain the backstory. This also includes explaining the backstory before the actual story even begins. Starting with way more information than necessary is a sure way to slow down your pacing.

Day 4 - Opening Lines

Welcome to Day Four! Today we’re looking at Opening Lines. 

 

The opening thought is actually more important than the opening line.

 

That opening sentence is part of a larger whole. It’s pretty rare that someone stops reading at the first sentence– they’ll usually give you time to finish your thought. 

What matter’s the most is your overall opening thought. It’s a promise made to the reader. It says that continuing to read will come with a certain payoff.

 

Within your opening thought the goal is to spark some sort of intrigue. Whether that’s done through a philosophical thought, suspense, a burning question, an expectation, etc. 

 

A Few Things to Remember 

 

Use your opening line/thought to set the tone for the rest of your entire book. 

 

And, always create some sort of intrigue that makes the reader want to continue reading. 

 

A Few Things to Avoid

 

Don’t spend too much time overanalyzing, because that’s when words no longer have any meaning. That intrigue we’re looking for becomes totally lost. 

 

One thing we’ve seen with opening sentences is trying to cram a ton of information into that one line. Information is the wrong thing to go with, this isn’t a thesis statement. You want an opening sentence that invokes feeling. Information does not invoke any feeling other than boredom.

Day 5 - Building Anticipation

Welcome to the FINAL day of the 5 Day First Chapter Challenge!

 

We hope you’ve learned a lot this past week and that your first chapters are looking better than ever.

 

Today, we are learning about how to end your first chapter and keep readers…well, reading! 

We have to build a desire for people to keep reading after chapter one. This can be done in one of two ways. 

 

The first, is suspense–wanting to know what’s going to happen. And anticipation–knowing what’s going to happen but being extremely excited to see it play out. 

 

The second (and the worst) way to do this is confusion. If the reader doesn’t understand what’s happening there is a fine line between keeping them curious, and getting them frustrated. They have to be able to grasp the basics of what is going on.

It’s been so fun having you all these last five days! If you haven’t already, go check out the 5 Day Character Development Challenge, and keep an eye out for new mini-challenges coming your way soon. 

Or, if you’d like, join us for our next round of the 60 Day Novel Writing Challenge. You’ll get 60 days of videos just like these AND a hardcover workbook packed with helpful worksheets. Plus, weekly Zoom meetings with Halie and past and present challengers! 

 

Thank you so much, again, for joining us!