Friday, October 30, 2009

Why Do We Only Ask For The First Chapters?

But Scott, my story gets so much better once we get into the story.

I hear this all of the time, and I would certainly hope that the story does get better. But, as we all know, it is the opening chapters that we as readers make our decisions if we will continue reading or not. Come on people, how many of you REALLY keep reading a book when the beginning really tanks it. I am betting you do like the rest of us and move on to the next book in our reading stack. Some of us "accidentally" leave it on the bus or in the airport.

In reality though, the first three chapters really tell us a lot about you as a writer. If you have plotting issues, the chances that you suddenly figure it out in the later chapters is unlikely. If you have weak characters, they don't suddenly become amazing in chapter 5.

There are also many writers that continually submit stories to contests for critique. Those first chapters have been worked over so much by the time you start submitting. Now, let's face it. If the story is not amazing after all of those rounds, what do you think the later chapters are like.

Now, for those of you that might not submit stories to conferences, you probably still do the same thing when it comes to editing. Every time you start into the editing, it will be those earlier chapters that get more work. We get tired of editing toward the end. We gloss over problems. We skip chapters. The list is endless.

So, this brings us back to the initial question of why we only look at the first chapters. Hey, if you don't get us in those pages, you won't get us at all. On a practial side, think of how larget hat stack would be if we had received fulls from everyone out there. We would simply be buried.

From my own perspective, I also see this as a way to save you some cash. Printing off that full and mailing it costs a lot. If we can keep the costs down for you, enjoy it!



  1. Just off to bin my work! *grin*

    Interesting post, thanks for answering a question floating in my brain space.

  2. I am going to admit this here - and then deny it to my grave. If a book tanks at the beginning, I skip to the LAST three chapters. I'm an ending junkie. Even if the book stinks I have to know how the author ended it for the MCs... *sigh* I wonder if there's an Anon meeting for this?

  3. Oh Martha, I do that all the time. Got a book not that long ago, John Grisham's The Appeal, and the beginning wasn't grabbing me, (after about 70 pgs) and I flipped to the end....

    When I read the last few pages, i put the book down and have yet to pick it back up.

    So you're not alone!!!

  4. Here is my (admittedly weird) M.O.: I open a book in the middle and scroll down to the end of a chapter and read the last paragraph or two. I guess I'm looking for "zingers."

  5. Hah-if everyone would request fulls our queries would never be answered!

    While I thought the same before, my story gets so much better, it's ture. If you don't pulll the reader in then, they won't bother to continue on.

    That's why on my current WIP I am going in with a whole new attitude for a partial. I want the reader sucked in as much as I feel and keep them turning the pages.

    And yes, mailing/printing costs are a pain. I love the whole going green, but I do also think a manuscript looks more professional and better on paper.