Ok, there aren’t 13893847 tips here.
Actually, there won’t be any tips at all. Turn away now if you have stumbled across this blog post in the hope that I would be able to give you the golden formula for hooking your reader and getting that awesome manuscript of yours published. I don’t have that information… but I do have a lot of frustration when it comes to writing that first chapter.
Google the phrase ‘how to write a killer first chapter’, or some variation of that phrase, and you are bound to find hundreds of threads, blog entries and posts about the subject. Everyone seems to have the good word on what elements constitute an awesome first chapter for a novel. It’s difficult for an inexperienced writer to know exactly what an editor/agent/publisher wants – we’re constantly bombarded with horror stories involving the notion that if you don’t hook the reader with your first sentence then your entire manuscript will be filed in the garbage bin – never to be seen again. The sad fact is, we’re often told this by editors/agents/publishers… or at least from people who are meant to represent these beacons of the industry. And to be honest, it doesn’t do a great deal to build a newbie’s confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great info out there. You should do everything you can to try and capture your reader’s attention from that first paragraph and then hold it for the remainder of your novel. That’s a given. But let’s face it, there are no hard and fast rules in life… even the publishing industry. I doubt anyone out there in Slushpile Land is really going to bin your work just because you didn’t open with “Call me Ishmael”.
If I did have any tips for writing a killer first chapter (and I said that I wasn’t going to give any), it would involve picking up five or ten published novels and see how they did it, read as many of these tips as you can but don’t treat them as gospel, and finally – listen to your beta readers. If you can hook your beta reader from the get-go, chances are you’ll go a long way to making sure the right people will treat your novel with the respect it deserves.
Whatever you do – just keep writing!