First 10 pages of your novel



The first ten pages of your novel are what busy readers see when they click “Look Inside” on Amazon. Potential readers will decide whether to buy your book after reading all or some of those first ten pages.

The first ten pages of your novel are what busy readers see when they click “Look Inside” on Amazon.

Potential readers will decide whether to buy your book after reading all or some of those first ten pages. However, readers may not even read those first ten pages if the first page isn't great. If your first few pages show writing ability and you grab readers with a vivid story right away, readers may get excited enough to buy your book.

Novelist Lawrence Block says, “Throw away your first chapter.” Most first novels waste time extensively describing the scene or bringing in the protagonist’s background before getting around to making something happen. By urging us to toss the first chapter, Block was suggesting we start with something happening. 

Telling all about the characters in the opening pages is not necessary.

Avoid giving the description, history and laying all the groundwork that early in the book. Too much information makes life difficult for readers who are trying to grasp what your story is about and how the plot elements and the characters fit together.

At the beginning of a book, readers tend to memorize nearly everything they read, thinking it might be important to follow the story. Whatever you lend importance to should be essential. That’s why flashbacks shouldn’t be in a first chapter and why there should be more dialogue than a narrative summary.

Description in the first chapter should be subtle and sparse. Readers want things to start. If you must, drag in background and description in Chapter Two after your readers have been successfully hooked by the story.

Important first line.

A novel is made up of many thousands of sentences, but none as important as the opening line. The first line should tell readers what to expect in terms of language, plot, and character. It should be mysterious and compelling, either poetic or shockingly abrupt.

If potential readers read the opening line, they should want to keep reading. The beginning defines but does not completely explain your protagonist. The question, "What does the protagonist want?” means you have begun the plot. Work to keep the opening of your novel clear and simple, so readers will be hooked. At the start of your novel, you should bring readers into the book and attract their attention.

Dialogue is great for this. Description is not.

If you can convince readers to read the first page, they will likely read the second. If they read the first ten pages, they might be with you for the whole book. Let’s hope so. 

The first impression creates a story promise. They pose questions, which need answers. and pull us into your novel’s story. We meet the voice of the protagonist and begin to sense the story’s purpose. The beginning intrigues readers and they feel strong about your characters and are curious about what will happen next. They want an emotional experience, to feel something. They want to feel as if they have connected with a story's characters, living their fictional experience.

Plot twists cause surprise, but a deeper bond is generated by having readers feel for the characters. Empathy for your characters draws readers in. When readers see something in the protagonist they can relate to, they will like them.

Readers want to think and feel.

Your novel needs an emotional hook, a reason to care about the protagonist as soon as they meet. Since readers pick up cues and form positive judgments almost instantaneously, we should accomplish this bonding on page one. Likable characters reveal values such as love, commitment to justice and selflessness.

Readers want something to happen, right away.

No matter what kind of fiction you write, you need to hit your protagonist right away with a question or a need, if not an outright problem. In engaging openings, qualities of strength, humor, humanity and goodness find a way to get its hooks into you. As your novel opens, find something warm and human your protagonist cares about.

Your first chapter should be typical of the story you’re telling. It has to have the protagonist, the conflict, the mood, the setting as well as mystery, movement and dialogue. That’s why it is so important to get right.

No time to think, no time to worry, no time to ponder. Your protagonist has to decide what to do next. Readers do not need to know everything about your protagonist in the first chapter. However, readers do want to care about them. Make readers fear for them. Let readers know why their story matters. Conflict feeds readers, so strive to begin the book with conflict, which disrupts the status quo. The conflict can be large or small, emotional or physical. Readers need to be aware of the risks, which face the protagonist. Readers would sure like a bit of a hint about the conflict that matters.

In the first chapter, it is necessary to establish where and when the story is taking place. Not complete descriptions, floor plans or exact digital time. Just a few sentences which establish that we are on earth, or not and in a room, or not.

The first chapter is not the place to tell us everything. Leave that for Chapter Two, Three or Four.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)


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