Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips For a Stellar First Chapter (Bonus Inspirational Quote Included!)

You're in luck! Not only do I have fun first chapter advice to share, but I also have an inspirational quote. (How cool is that?)

1) As I was doing my blogging rounds, I started to come across a lot of interesting links about first chapters, lines, and pages. As usual, the thing that I wasn't supposed to be doing? Yeah, that's what I was doing.

According to  pretty much every article I read, (and I think there were about 5), you shouldn't start your story explaining your setting, you should start it off with the character performing some sort of action. Whether your character is having a conversation, going for a drive, hiding a dead body, whatever, starting with action will make readers feel like they are a part of it and will make them want to read on to see the action through. (Which of course will be followed by more amazing, mindblowing prose.)

Because my first 3 pages were more setting focused and then the action started happening, I cut the first three pages and pasted them in another amazingly super fitting spot. My story is so much more interesting now. Seriously, if you are reading your first few pages and  find they're about 5% action and 95% description. Change it. You might find your descriptions fascinating, but your new readers won't. They'll get bored, fall asleep, and drool all over your lovely novel before putting it aside to read something that keeps moving.

I also like to think about it this way: You know when you have 5 minutes of free time and your best buddy wants to tell you some very important anecdote about some irritating Starbucks barista and she spends the first 3 minutes setting you up for the confrontation and you just want her to get there already?! Yeah, that's how the reader feels about your first chapter.

For an article about agents pet peeves regarding first chapters visit: 8 Ways to Write a 5 Star Chapter 1 (and while you're at it, go to to subscribe to the e-newsletter I got it from.)

"You get all that AND a Bonus Inspirational Quote too!" 
2) Stay with me for the inspirational quote: In addition to performing in the Vagina Monologues a couple of weeks ago, I am also performing in A Memory, Monologue, Rant, and a Prayer. This is another performance put on by the v-day campaign to prevent violence against woman. (Topics discussed in this play are domestic abuse, rape, murder, prejudice, sexuality, etc. Check out for more info on the organization.) When I read over my part today, there was one part that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share with you. (This would be the totally inspiring quote I was talking about)

"We need writers in these terrible times of deception and manipulation
and sound bites and half-investigated truths, in these
times when the lust for power has trumped the hunger for justice,
in these times of evildoers and saints. We don’t have many
real leaders, we don’t have many politicians we can trust. But we
can trust writers. Rather than selling us something, they are exploring
something; rather than dominating us, they are opening
us; rather then winning or having a position, they are inviting us
to ask questions.
We need each and every writer, each and every artist, to tell
the truth the way she or he sees it, the way it comes through her
or him. " - Eve Ensler

I think this quote is exceptionally beautiful, and I hope that it inspires all of you. (Believe it or not, providing you with inspiration is very important to me. ...That's right, I care about you!)

It definately reminded me about why I write and who I write for. Not just for the love of it, but to make people happy, to give people something to relate to, to learn from, and to laugh about, and to touch deep topics in the way that only fiction writers can.

So remember that. And be inspired, gosh darn it!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog including my tips for cutting down the word count of your novel!

<3 Gina Blechman


  1. I loved the quote. Thank you for sharing it. I actually have a subscription to Writer's Digest. (I haven't read this article yet though. Been dealing with the Crusades.) I love that magazine it has a lot of great info in it. The website has a lot of what is in the magazine too. It's a great resource.

    Thanks again for the quote. It made me feel like someone gets what I'm trying to do. Very inspirational.