People all over the world have talked about writing a book, but often wonder where they should even begin. Do you start with developing a character? Do you start with discovering the conflict or establishing a good story setting? Should you write an outline? The questions just pile up until you are overwhelmed and don't know where to begin.
Different writers and authors have different styles and techniques in which they write, starting with how they go about writing the first chapter. Here are a few tips you can use to help write the book you have been dreaming of writing for years.
The opening of your first chapter should be one that pulls readers into the book and leaves them wanting more. This first sentence needs to reach through the pages and grab readers. By doing this, you engage your readers right off the bat and get them so engrossed in the book they do not want to put it down. You want readers to feel they are part of the book. Capture their interest and give them a reason to keep reading.
Starting with a question is also a good way to get readers involved in the book. The question has to be one that has substance and purpose. Pose the question that seems or is philosophical. The question must be framed in such a way that it will linger in the reader's mind the entire time they are reading the book.
When thinking about how to write an engaging first chapter, fiction and nonfiction books can be quite different. Not only will the actual content differ substantially, but so should your approach, even if the end goal of capturing the reader's interest and compelling them to read further is similar.
With fiction, you might "hook" the reader by vividly describing a unique or compelling character with a bit of a secret. Harry Potter is a good example of this. Alternatively, you may draw in the reader with an incredible setting or with an intriguing central conflict.
With nonfiction, it's more about presenting the argument of why this book is relevant to the reader. Why does this topic matter? Why might it be interesting or otherwise provide useful value to the reader? The first chapter of many self-help books lays out a promise of what the reader will learn or what the reader will have to gain by reading the book.
Some of the greatest writers make outlines. Just as setting out an outline for your research paper or argumentative essay can make the task of writing easier, the same is true in writing a book. Think of this outline as a first chapter checklist, making sure you hit all the points you want to make.
Create an outline of the first chapter, as well as every chapter after that. The outline is not set in stone; feel free to rearrange some of the content as you go. This will give you a destination of where you want to go and when you need to go there.
The outline can be in any style you like. It is up to you as the writer to determine how in-depth you make the outline. Just remember that the more details you put in an outline, the more vivid the book will be to you, the writer. Refer to Plot of a Story Examples to better understand the core structure of a good narrative.
… and what to leave out.
In writing the first chapter of your book, you definitely want to get readers interested. This can mean including key details of what they can expect to find in the rest of the book. With fiction, you want to give readers some sense of the story's setting and the type of tale they can anticipate. With nonfiction, readers should have a good idea of the subject matter to follow.
At the same time, you don't want to give away everything in the first chapter either. Otherwise, readers will not have any reason or motivation to read any further! The basic premise of the book should be clear, but you can tease obliquely at what mysteries may lay ahead. Unexpected plot twists and character reveals are powerful tools! Save them for later in the book.
Characters are what make great novels. If you have characters that intrigue, you have readers asking questions. When readers ask questions, they're motivated to learn more about your characters and the book in general.
With characters, it is always good to investigate and get to know them as the writer. Characters will often take over and evolve on their own. Even if they are little more than figments of your imagination, the characters in your story need to take on a life of their own, as if they are real. Don't allow your characters to stop dead in their tracks and go nowhere because they are without direction. Dynamic characters propel your story forward.
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to writing a book. Most writers work and write with many different methods. So, the best tip of all is to find the best way that works for you. Try out several different tips to get to your comfort zone, and then challenge yourself to improve. It is like learning: we all learn differently and we definitely all write differently.
Want to draw in the reader from the very first line of your book? Borrow a page from journalism school and brush up on How to Write a Hook. Provoke their thoughts and entice them to read further into your remarkable tale.