Write a Standout Chapter 1

Author:
Publish date:

We all know the importance of starting our stories strong: Without a beginning that draws the readers in (whether those readers are agents, editors or bookstore browsers), they may never make it to the middle.

wd0816_500

Enter the July/August 2016 Writer’s Digest: An entire issue devoted to helping you make your Chapter 1 shine.

When we’ve shipped out an issue that instantly resonates, we can always spot the signs from our subscribers on social media. Here’s a glimpse of the warm reception our "Write a Standout Chapter 1!" issue was receiving (for both the feature package and stellar cover author Lisa Gardner) even before it hit newsstands.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.52.27 AM
Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.49.43 AM
Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 10.50.20 AM

The last comment (which, by the way, made my day) is in reference to a Chapter 1 metaphor in my editor’s letter, so I thought I’d also share it below to further give this issue a proper introduction:

Setting Your Story in Motion

To you, it probably would have looked ordinary. But to me, it was miraculous.

The laundry basket was positioned on the love seat as a makeshift basketball hoop. My 2-year-old daughter had joined my 4-year-old son in a giggly yet remarkably civilized game of taking a shot, running to where my husband and I were sitting on the couch to distribute high fives, and then retrieving the ball to do it all again. For the first time I could remember, she didn’t call out to us to lift her so she could get closer to the “net.” No one pushed or went out of turn. Both kids played happily, on their own, for the better part of an hour while we watched. I waited for the moment I’d need to intervene, but it never came.

If you nurture your Chapter 1 from birth, if you lay the groundwork for free play and good behavior, you may find that one day, the same happens with your story: You’ve put it into motion, and now it’s happily moving forward with a momentum of its own, making you proud. It might look effortless to your readers—in fact, done well, it probably should—but you’ll think back to those early sleepless nights when every word was an unknown, and you’ll know better.

Starting Strong

Here are some highlights you can find inside the July/August 2016 Writer’s Digest, all about strong beginnings:

  • “The Chain of Awesomeness” by longtime novelist Jeff Somers unpacks what really makes a great first line, paragraph, page and onward, complete with plenty of examples from successful books.
  • “Backstory From the Front” by The Art of Character author David Corbett delves into perhaps the No. 1 warning we’ve heard about our opening pages—Don’t load them with too much backstory!—in really looking at when and how we can introduce and paint fully realized characters effectively.
  • “Countdown to a Great Chapter 1,” by Gabriela Perieria (author of the new writing guide DIY MFA) highlights essential dos and don’ts for preparing your story for takeoff.
  • And “Story Jump-Starts” is a compilation piece for anyone struggling with the best way to translate ideas or sparks of inspiration into the beginning of something wonderful.

(Preview the full contents of the July/August 2016 Writer's Digest here.)

In this issue’s WD Interview, bestselling suspense novelist Lisa Gardner talks about how the secret of good writing can have everything to do with rewriting. (And that's just one of many gems from Gardner. Take a peek now at the full intro to our WD Interview With Lisa Gardner, highlighting her inspiring career to date, alongside some bonus interview outtakes!) So take heart that we have ample chances to improve the starts of our stories—and that if we take the time to get our most crucial of chapters right, our readers may reward us by riding along to the satisfying end.

Find the guidance and inspiration you need for your own opening chapters in the July/August 2016 Writer’s Digest, now on your favorite bookstore or library newsstand and available for instant download.

Yours in writing,
Jessica Strawser

Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest magazine

Subscribe today. Your writing will thank you.

Follow me on Twitter.

Connect with me on Facebook.

Learn more about my debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, forthcoming from St. Martin's Press in March 2017.

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.

Weinstein_1:21

The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.

Stottlemyre_1:21

Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.

plot_twist_story_prompts_take_a_trip_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.

Probst_1:20

Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.

Wrobel_1:20

Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.

who_are_the_inaugural_poets_for_united_states_presidents_robert_lee_brewer

Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.

precedent_vs_president_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.