I suspect every writer suffers from self doubt on occasion. I had an episode the other day when I read a Writers Digest article, “Countdown to a Great Chapter 1,” by Gabriela Pereira. This well written article got right to the heart of things – “…you need to make the first chapter unputdownable.”
She goes on to say, “If your whole book is an A, then Chapter 1 must be an A-plus.”
That’s when the doubt crept in. I’m trying something different with my next book, but will the planned first chapter, a prologue set in the past, pull readers in? Or will they be disappointed that I couldn’t keep the promise. I'm still debating.
Gabriela provides some helpful guidelines:
Character: “Without a central character, you don’t have a story – you have a newsreel.” This made me reevaluate how I’d plan to introduce my main characters. The way I have it written now, will readers be confused as to whom they should be rooting for?
Voice: “Voice is your writing DNA.” I figured this out for my first book. That’s what makes each author different, and according to my readers, I did a few things right!
A World: My first readers commented that they needed more descriptions of not only my characters, but of the geographic location in which my story was set. I am constantly reminded to add more details, though I admit this is a challenge for me.
A Problem: Whatever conflict you present in Chapter 1 doesn’t have to be the main conflict, but has to relate to it in some way. That’s the challenge for writers. Keeping all those threads going towards the climax, and then being able to tie them all up in a tidy knot at the end.
An Event: No matter what genre something has to happen in Chapter 1 to keep the reader turning pages.