Sorry this post is late you guys. Totally my fault. You all know how this week has been for me. Everything is happening at once AHHH! Anyway, today we have the awesome Jason Beymer and he’s going to give us some tips on the most impressionable chapter in any work. Chapter 1. Enjoy!
The Dreaded Chapter One
“Readers will judge my book by the first chapter alone.”
If you’re like me, these ten words haunt you 24 hours a day. Chapter One is a killer. It’s the free sample from Amazon–the first taste of “You” the customer gets. Did you grab the reader’s attention? Did the character immediately jump off the page? No? Tough. The customer will move onto a different book. And “readers” include agents, critics and publishing houses as well, making the stakes even higher. The pressure to create a perfect Chapter One can be agonizing. The more you obsess and tinker, the more damage you’ll do. Here are some tips to keep it smelling funky fresh:
1) When revising, don’t start with Chapter One every time. Start today’s editing with Chapter Two, or even Part Two. The problem with starting edits from the beginning each time is this: you’re at your most critical when you first open that Word document. For the first twenty minutes the coffee is hot and wonderful, and your creativity is all atwitter with the caffeine rush. But the coffee also wakes Mister Inner Editor. Sentences will read differently in those initial minutes. Beware of your own inconsistencies. Chapter One will read fine one day, but look terrible the next. You’ll butcher it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then wonder why you butchered it on Saturday. Worse, you’ll sometimes stop editing at Chapter Four, only to start again the next day with One. Don’t. Be mindful of how much criticism you’re exerting on those first 5000 words. Let your fresh and critical brain focus on something else when you sit down with your piping hot cup o’ joe. Hit up the sex scene that needs work, or the scene where the protagonist loses an all-important game of Blackjack. Then go back to Chapter One.
2) Beta Chapter One early – This is the chapter you give to all your writer contacts. Let them decide if it needs more work. Give it to friends, fellow writers and the guy waiting for the bus on the corner. Get feedback. Ask them these questions: “Does it flow?”, “Does it make you want to keep reading?” and “Where do you think this story is going?” While you’re at it, you might also give them chapters two and three, and ask if the “voice” is consistent throughout.
3) When all else fails, delete Chapter One and start the novel with Chapter Two. I’ve seen this advice from other writers. Basically, trash your first chapter, and start the book with the second. If you’ve made a mess of things and the tone from that first chapter is different from the rest of the novel, this might be a good strategy.
If anyone has any suggestions, or if you said “Huh? I’ve never had this problem. Jason must be a lunatic,” I’d love to hear from you. I hope this helps!
Jason Beymer is the author of Nether and Rogue’s Curse, both available through Lyrical Press.
Here’s more about the urban fantasy/comedy Nether:
One suburban night. One stubborn corpse. One golden opportunity.
Burklin had it all: a spacious two-story house, a shapeshifting wife, a wide open future. That is, until his father ripped out his soul and trapped it inside an opinionated dachshund. Now he’s lost everything, leaving him a slave on mop-up duty for a homicidal teenage demon. His father is sleeping with his ex, the possessed dachshund won’t stop talking, and the cleanup jobs keep getting messier. Burklin would give anything to have his life back–even if it means turning against his manipulative father and destroying their chance of winning the Nether’s Demon Lord Sweepstakes.
Opportunity knocks with a dead woman’s hand. When the demon’s latest victim won’t stay dead, the rules of life and death change. Freedom lies within Burklin’s reach, but to get it he’ll have to defy his father, the ex-wife he still loves, and the Nether itself.
Just how far is he willing to go?
Warning: This title contains sex, violence, human cuisine, a smart-ass dachshund, teenage demons, and fun with corpses.
Here’s more info on Rogue’s Curse:
The talisman responsible for the Rapture has embedded itself in Doban’s chest, making him the most wanted rogue in history.
Pursued by a biblical prophet intent on ripping the talisman out, Doban must seek help from the only woman who ever loved him–a woman he once left to die in a tomb. Can they let go of the past long enough to stop a second Rapture?
This title contains graphic violence, off-kilter copulation, and nasty rogues.
Bio: A permanent fixture at his local coffeehouse, Jason Beymer hunches over his laptop in a caffeine-induced frenzy, jowls slick with muse. He injects comedy into the urban and traditional fantasy genres like a squeeze of lemon into ice water: tart, yet refreshing. When not pounding on his keyboard, Jason worships at the feet of Ray Bradbury, and engages in an unhealthy obsession with Grace Park and Tricia Helfer.
Rogue’s Curse: http://www.beerandtv.com/rogues-curse