Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2013

First Chapter Musts – Anita Nolan

April illustration heather dentCat1

This illustration was sent in by Heather Dent. Since a little girl, Heather’s dream has been to become a professional author and illustrator. Now the time has come to try to make that dream come true.  Right now she works for a small business in Berea KY called Attic Light Studios that transfers old videos and photos into digital files and makes movies for special events like weddings, funerals, and anniversaries.  Her blog is:

Anita Nolan is doing a four hour intensive workshop titled, Creating Better Beginnings on June 7th at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference. Here is the description:

It’s vital to make the first pages of your manuscript the best they can be. After all, an editor or agent might read no more than the first few paragraphs before deciding to reject. In this intensive we’ll look at different ways to begin a story and what should be included in the first few pages. We’ll consider what you are revealing about your main character, (and whether it is what you intended!) and whether the character is sympathetic. You’ll rewrite your first paragraphs of your story in this workshop. Bring a printed copy of your first chapter (at least 5 pages, double spaced), paper and pen, (and your laptop if you’d like—laptop is not necessary) highlighter, and be prepared to dig into your first chapter.

I asked Anita if she could share some tips with the writers following my blog. Anita does a great job. You will learn a lot and advance your story if you sign up for her Friday session. Below are a few things from Anita on what a first chapter should accomplish:

As a reader dives into the first chapter, he searches for clues as to what type of story he’s reading. Is it a fantasy? Historical? A fast-paced adventure or a slower-paced coming of age story? Is the voice humorous? Sarcastic? Flowery?

A story’s beginning makes a promise to the reader about what type of story he’s picked up, the pacing, and voice.

Recently I read first pages from one story that promised a fantasy but had no fantastical elements, and from another that had no fantastic elements in the beginning, but the story had an entire secondary fantasy world.

Here are a few things the first chapter should accomplish:

1. Intrigue Reader. Hook them & keep them reading.

2. Introduce either main character/s or theme.

3. Identify what Main character needs/lacks/wants.

4. Identify the obstacles standing in the Main Character’s way.

5. Establish a bond (sympathy) between the reader & Main Character.

6. Present the world in which the story is set.

7. Establish the general tone of the novel.

8. Show Pacing.

9. Show the Voice.

Remember registration ends April 30th at midnight.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Oh, I am SUCH a List Lover! Thanks, Anita and Kathy 🙂


  2. Thank you for displaying my work today. It’s an honor to have it up on your website. It’s a pity I won’t be able to attend the New Jersey SCBWI conference to attend Anita’s workshop because it looks excellent!


    • Yeah, Heather, I’m disappointed about not going, too 😦


      • Btw, Kathy, I don’t know if you forget, but this is me—Donna! lol I have the two different WordPress accounts and dependent on which one I’m signed into at the time, is the icon that appears! lol My blog’s not up yet, but it does exist. Sorry if I confuse you 🙂


  3. Good info.!


  4. Thank you for the tips on creating a great first chapter.


  5. Thank you for the great tips on creating a stellar first chapter
    I loved Heather’s artwork too.


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