How to Craft a Compelling Opening Chapter

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Readers often decide if they will continue with a book or abandon it within the first few pages, so your opening chapter needs to engage or hook the reader from the start.

Here are some tips to consider while crafting your opening chapter:

  • In fiction, we tend to want to start with the backstory and tell the story from start to finish. Why not begin inside the action and weave the backstory in as the story unfolds?
  • You will likely introduce your main character in the opening chapter. In a way, you are selling your main character to the reader here. If your character is flat, you fear to lose your reader before the story evolves. Having said that, only reveal so much about the main character at this time. You don't want to give it all away at once.
  • Penning a memoir? Try shocking the reader up front by revealing a personal life experience that will set the tone for the book. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable from the start establishes trust and allows our readers to relate to us.
  • While writing non-fiction, consider beginning with an introduction that embraces the reader and sets the tone for the pages ahead. It should reveal a bit about who you are, why you are sharing your knowledge, and what the reader will gain from you and your book.

How many pages should the opening chapter be?

The average chapter is 5-7 pages, but it's not uncommon to have a chapter that is only 1-3 pages. Chapters should begin and end when it feels right to the writer. Keep in mind, longer chapters may cause reader exhaustion, and for that reason, I would suggest keeping your opening chapter under nine pages.

If you've found this article to be helpful, consider joining my upcoming 8-Week Book Writing Intensive.