When You Ask For Someone To Read Your First Chapter
Warning: Rant Coming
(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.
- – They want to be told their story sounds interesting
- – They want to be told they can write
- – They want to be told their characters are fascinating
- – They want to be told they’re writing something marketable
- – 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.
The Problem With First Chapters?
- Rough Drafts Suck
- Stories Change
- 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.
The Benefits of First Chapters
- You have to start somewhere
- You’re exploring the setting
- 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?
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?