Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 27, 2010

Chapter One & Jump Starting Your Book

1. Don’t get carried away.  A first chapter should whet the appetite and make the reader want to keep reading. Don’t raise a ton of questions and answer them all in chapter one.

2. Make it easy on your readers. Don’t demand to much thinking in the first chapter.  You want to keep their interest, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either.  

3. Make something happen.  This is an important thing to work on, since we all want to hook our readers and give them something to make them turn the page.

4. Avoid backstory.  I’m not saying never, because in writing there is no such thing as never, but in most cases, it is better to just sprinkle little bits of information that hint to the past.

5. Think cocktail party when introducing characters.  Would you be able to remember the names of a bunch of people you just met at a party?  Probably not, so don’t expect your readers to remember all your characters, if you dump them all into the first chapter.

6. Avoid long bouts of description.  You want to set the tone in your first chapter and too much description can cause your reader to skip pages and maybe put down your book.

7. Raise some questions.  Make your reader wonder what is going on; don’t give them all the answers.  You can keep them reading by creating questions.  They’ll want to find the answers.  What happens next?  Who was that man watching the main character? Where did that box come from? How did it get there?

8. Have your protagonist do something memorable.  Have your character make an entrance.  Maybe give them a significant character trait. 

9. Make only ONE major thing happening.  This will help focus your reader and help you keep your manuscript tight.

10. End the chapter with a page turner.  Use one of the techniques discussed on April 19th.

I would love you to share your ideas on writing a great first chapter.  Any new thoughts?



  1. hey, Kathy 🙂

    I love these points you made and I’ll add: make your character someone the reader cares about right away.


    • Donna,

      That is a good one. How did I forget that? That is the one thing I have been working hard to get right.



      • LOL Kathy! Don’t feel bad. You’ve got a zillion things going on in your head and not remembering every little thing when you write a daily blog is totally understandable. For me, I forget almost EVERYthing and am constantly rereading tips and how-tos for writing. It’s why I’m having trouble getting back into writing my novels.

        Btw, I’ve been receiving posts up to 2 weeks late. I don’t know why, but last night I received ones from 2 weeks ago. Tonight I’m receiving ones from 1-2 weeks ago. Actually, I’ll email you about it since I’m not sure you’ll get this right away, though at least this response was timely 🙂


      • Donna,

        You are correct about the zillion things.



  2. Kathy, love your blog. I follow it closely. Great points. I’m printing them as we speak as a reminder.



    • Henya,

      Wish you lived close enough to come to our conference. I would love to meet you.



  3. Another great day on your blog Kathy.
    I’m on my way to the post office despite the fact that I think I may be guilty of #4!
    Best and as always, THANKS!


    • Mimi,

      We had to start a waiting list for one-on-one critiques. I expect that I will have to add another editor or agent. It’s only five weeks away.



      • Wow! That’s fantastic. So . . . have you asked someone from Writers House?


  4. Mimi,

    Where did you see me say that?



    • Hi Kathy,

      I didn’t see you say it. Ha—that’s kind of funny, ‘see you say it’—life in the blogging world! It was just a thought I had.

      I’ve been checking out different literary agencies online,
      and Writers House seems like a great one!

      I like the bag by the way, good find!

      Have a great day, it’s gorgeous out!

      Very best,


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