Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Your First Three Chapters Have To Rock!

We always hear about how important it is for your story to start amazing, but in this digital, fast-paced world that we live in, if you don't hook that reader, they will stop reading. Sure, you made that sale because the odds are, they aren't going to return it (by the way, you can do that with E-books), but the real concern is, will they come back to your next book. The odds are, if you did a poor job with that first book and they didn't finish it, they won't return to you.

For those of you who are still working in the traditional publishing market, you really have to make sure that those first three chapters rock! Those editors and agents have a ton of you sending in projects. You are just one of many they are reading in that setting and they need to be hooked quickly. Remember, they are often reading your projects in the evening or on weekends after they have done all of their normal work load. They are tired. They would like to maybe see their kids or their significant others. When they are reading, they need an escape. In many ways, when those editors and agents are reading, they are doing so like any other reader out there.

The problem is that far too many authors believe the first three chapters have to start fast. They immediately plunge the reader into the center of the conflict or start throwing the villain and his or her dastardly plan at us without giving us a reason to care. This is not going to work! We have nothing to cheer for and we will be lost.

We always say to start the story with action. That does not mean the central conflict. It simply means that you should not start out with a huge back story dump. Don't kill us with all of that history that you needed to get to know your characters. Along the same lines, don't start the story out with someone just sitting there drinking tea. At least get the person walking around the room!

The reality is that, by the end of the first three chapters, we should have a sense of who the story is about and what might be at stake. In a romance, we should likely see (although this is not a fixed rule) a sense of the two that will likely be coming together. No, they don't need to magically fall in love in the first chapter, but we need to see that they will be together. They just don't have to see it yet.

Once you get that going, don't stop. The next fatal flaw is that you so work the first three chapters that when you get to chapters 4-6, you have lost the steam. Get us going, hook us and keep us going. Make sure, at the end of that long tired day, I still want to sit there on the sofa reading your book! You do that, you will make that sale. And for those of you wanting to keep readers? I promise, they will be back!

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