4 Ways To Know If Your Opening Chapters Are Working

I have re-written my first chapter for my dark fantasy WIP In Roots They Quake a few times now, but in the past week I’ve hit on a version of the opening that is really working for me.

Granted, it’s impossible for me to know this early whether these chapters will be in the published book, but I’m pretty certain that the final version will be pretty close. How do I know that? Well, there’s a couple of reasons:

1. The First Chapter Flows Into The Second

My story features a couple of time-jumps. The major one is an eleven month jump, but there was a smaller one after the first chapter, with the second chapter taking place about three weeks later. Because of this, I was struggling to show that time has passed while also keeping up the suspense from chapter one.

In my re-write, I’ve done away with that three week time skip. The second chapter takes place directly after the first, so there’s no interruptions. I think this has really helped the chapters flow together.

2. You Want To Know What Happens Next

Before my re-write, my first chapter was (at least, so I thought) fairly interesting, suspenseful, and worked as a good ‘hook.’ And yet, when I came to write the second chapter I felt stuck. I had some idea where my characters would go and what they would do, but nothing felt right – and, worse, nothing felt interesting.

My first chapter stood neatly on its own, as first chapters often do, and while it promised conflict, it still lacked a hook that made me want to continue the story. As much as I liked what I’d written, the first chapter was a failure. So I needed to add something.

How do you add a hook?

  • Introduce something that will cause trouble in the very next scene.
  • End the chapter with the character making an important decision or taking action.
  • Make sure something in your character’s situation has changed by the end of the chapter.

You are your first reader. If you don’t want to continue the story, then something isn’t working. After I drafted the latest version of my opening chapter, writing the second felt a lot easier so I knew I’d fixed the problem.

3. You’re Writing Much Faster

I posted a little bit ago how writing should be energizing and how each scene should propel you onto the next.

This might sound obvious, but when I write exciting stories I… wait for it… get excited! I write much faster because I want to get through the story just like if I was reading it. By not being so precious, and throwing a little more oomph into my scene, I got really into it and I feel like that comes across on the page.

When you’re enjoying your work, you work faster. It’s as simple as that.

4. You’re Experiencing The Story The Way Your Characters Are

One notable different between the previous version of chapter one and my newest one is that I feel more connected with my character than before. I feel like I’m with her as I’m writing, that I’m following her along as she goes through her journey in a way that I just wasn’t while drafting previous versions.

I actually planned on having a chapter or two from a secondary character’s point of view, but because I’ve been so into this writing binge I haven’t found a reason to cut away yet. I know I still have a long way to go before my opening is publication ready – but, for now at least, I am certain I’m on the right track.

Opening chapters are put under a lot of scrutiny. Sometimes it takes a lot of attempts to find what works, so don’t lose heart if you’re frustrated with your opening chapters. Thank you very much for reading. My regards to you and anyone else you happen to run into 🙂


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