- Starting your story with the mundane. You want to provide a picture of your characters everyday life but it should be clear, concise and short. Provide just enough information about normal so that when the situation changes, there is a notable difference. Don’t bog your reader down with page upon page of happy normal character or backstory. Get to the action. Create the potential for conflict from the very first page-even while sharing normal and backstory. If your story takes forever to warm up, your reader might not make it to the good parts.
- Information dumps. I hate to get bogged down with description overload. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. I could care less how many yards of silk and lace went in to making that dress or that it had three gold buttons on the front and pearl closures on the back. Unless it’s playing a large role in your story don’t go there. I’m impressed that you researched but I don’t have to know everything you learned about the era. The most common dump is introducing to many characters in the first chapter. That’s one I didn’t think about. The more characters you cram into a scene, the harder it is for the reader to keep up with. Makes sense to me.
- Lazy Language. With your first chapter you can’t afford to have careless mistakes. Cliches, mispelling, structural and grammatical errors-if it’s something you can catch while proofreading, then there is no reason for it to be in your first chapter. Don’t give agents a reason to toss your work to the side.
There is so much to writing. While these three pitfalls are keys to writing a great first chapter, you can’t just forget everything else you’ve learned. You are including dialogue in that first chapter. Make sure it is seamlessly integrated into your work (I have previous blogs on writing dialogue-check them out). Make sure you have established your POV(see previous blog). You should never have more than one POV in a scene. If you do you are head bopping. No on the nose writing-the number one mistake of new writers (I have a post). What about pacing? Is it moving the reader along or has it stalled? So much to keep up with but you can do this 🙂
Hope this helped someone on their journey to being published. There is so much to keep up with. That’s ok though it doesn’t have to be perfect after the first draft. Remember-get it done then get it good.