When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter

When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter

Warning: Rant Coming

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 It seems so innocuous, especially when you’re first starting out. You’ve managed to write something, you’re trying to decide if it’s worth pursuing, and you want to reach out. So, you log onto a writers forum and ask the question.

(It’s okay. Everyone does it.)

You log and you ask someone to read your first chapter.

I have to confess, when I see that plea, I just sigh. I sigh because I know the truth.

When a beginner writer asks someone to read their first chapter, I know what they’re really asking for.

What Beginner Writers Want

Well, they want what EVERY writer wants, really.

  1. – They want to be told their story sounds interesting
  2. – They want to be told they can write
  3. – They want to be told their characters are fascinating
  4. – They want to be told they’re writing something marketable
  5. – They want to be asked for the next chapter
  • BONUS: SOMETIMES, they want even want suggestions to make it better or a collaborator to bounce ideas off.

Most of all, though? They’re looking for validation.

But, unless you are an amazing writer who somehow excels, right out of the box, at this one particular skill that eludes even most professional writers, there’s a problem.

Which is?

The Problem With First Chapters?

  1. Rough Drafts Suck
  2. Stories Change
  3. Opening Chapters Are Usually Trash

Even for plotters, things can shift, the emotional core of the story might change, or you might find a plot-hole you’d missed 20 chapters down the road.

As a reader, without more story to go on, there is no way I can tell you if your first chapter is any good. You don’t even know what your story is going to look like, how can I know if it sets up your story well?

And, there’s a belief in certain writer circles (and editor circles) that the first 20 pages can usually be thrown away.

I’ve found this particular belief to be true for me, and most of the writers I know, no matter their caliber.

Don’t get me wrong, you HAVE to write your first chapter. Even if you intend to cut it, first chapters are very useful.

The Benefits of First Chapters

  1. You have to start somewhere
  2. You’re exploring the setting
  3. You’re learning how to write the characters – you’re learning their voices

But the first chapter is for YOU, not for your readers.


This goes out to a special subset of writers, usually fantasy or romance writers…

If you’re a first time writer, who’s managed to write almost 20 pages and you tell me it’s the first chapter of a planned 7 book series?

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My sigh is going to be extra heavy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to set your sights high.

But for many writers, including me, the energy and motivation for a new story idea will take you about 5,000 words in–right about where you’re at.

You’ve just written 1% of your proposed story.

Plus, there’s another problem–especially if you don’t have an agent.

You should only sell ONE book at a time. And that book?  It needs to stand alone. Yes, overarching storylines are great, but each story needs to have its own natural stopping point.

Prove to me you can write and plot for ONE book and I might take a chance on its sequel.


Do you have this reaction? Have you asked for feedback before?

 

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18 thoughts on “When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter

  1. Morgan,

    The vid link is dead.

    Marty

    On Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 7:56 AM, Morgan S Hazelwood wrote:

    > Morgan Hazelwood posted: “When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First > Chapter Warning: Rant Coming It seems so innocuous, especially when you’re > first starting out. You’ve managed to write something, you’re trying to > decide if it’s worth pursuing, and you want to reach out. So” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Morgan – good advice. Every book has to be worthy in itself. Also – first time writers need to write the first several drafts of that first chapter, as well as the rest of the chapters, honing the words before sending it off to someone to read. In other words, do your work first. Then ask for comments and criticism. And when you receive the comments and criticism, don’t argue. Receive them humbly, and with the resolve to allow those comments and criticisms to inform you as a writer, and to help you improve your product.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good points! I also meant to write at some point about how beginner writers plan out a 10-book series instead of just writing the first book, and then – if it turns out “good enough” (after revisions, betas, and so on), expanding on it. Instead, people get stuck on the concepts that aren’t good or marketable, or “waste” great stories because they didn’t take time to hone their skills – and the first book needs writing from scratch because of that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. These are great points. As an editor, I never really know how a writer will respond to my comments. I’ve gotten everything from “thanks so much!” to “you are an idiot and here’s a twenty point list on why.” For this reason, I always tell people that I’m not here to pat you on the head. If that’s what you want, give your pages to your mother.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Romance writer here. My first, first, first chapter? Sucked. I’ve now written about, oh, either of them. Now it’s good. But the very first? Yikes. I know I’m not the only one that cringes when I recall what I put my early CPs through LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Late to the party, as usual, but this is great information. I honestly think the second biggest mistake the noob makes is the “it’s not ready,” mistake. Whether it is asking for a reader too soon, querying too soon, or self-pub’ing too soon, rushing the work will only end in regret. Thanks for sharing this, Sis.

    Liked by 1 person

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