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How to write a first chapter that will earn your millions?

You don’t know it yet but by clicking on this article you have just discovered the typical journey of a reader.

A guy/girl who has 5 seconds to choose a book from millions of titles during their lunch break. Your book is inside; the problem is it’s literally buried by the competition.

So what to do to get out?

Ask yourself what a reader is doing. Personally, when I choose a book, this goes through my head:

  1. I see a cool title
  2. I read the back cover
  3. I browse the first page
  4. if I’m convinced, I buy.

That’s kind of what you did with this article, right?

The title intrigued you with a crazy promise: how to write a first chapter that will make you a millionaire?

At this point, you clicked, a little doubtful but downright intrigued (the secret to being rich? My ancestors!).

Then comes a mysterious first sentence: “you don’t know it yet…”.

And in no time, you’re reading this sentence from a guy who claims to have gotten into your head. Crazy!

This superpower is exactly what I want to teach you today. How to get into your reader’s head and create a successful first chapter that will make them want to buy your book …and recommend it!


How to start the first chapter of your novel?

Your first chapter is your novel’s showcase. He is the one who will determine if your reader will buy/continue your story.

Worse! At the purchase stage, it is often the first sentences or the first page that will be decisive in the sale of your book.

So how do you make your reader want to devour your universe?

There is a simple bestseller technique for writing a good book cover design of first chapter, it’s mystery.

Indeed, I don’t know if you have noticed, but most Bestsellers place an intriguing element in their first sentence or paragraph in order to motivate readers to continue reading.

This mystery can be explicit with for example:

“(…) Needless to say that Artemis Fowl would never have accepted to undergo such discomfort if the stakes had not been so important. Important to his plan. »

Extract Artemis Fowl Deion Colder

In this example, Eosin Colder texted us “my character has a plan. It’s up to you to find out.”

Of course, this mystery will not be solved immediately, forcing the reader to continue reading if he wants to know more.

Sometimes the mystery will be more implicit:

“When the Spook presented itself, the day began to fade”

First sentence of the spooky apprentice by joseph Delaney

In this case, the first sentence introduces a character with an ominous name, accompanied by a fading glow. We imagine that it does not bode well but we are not told more.

You pretty much get the idea. To know how to write a spectacular first chapter, you must first intrigue the reader with a good first sentence/first paragraph.

On this solid foundation, you will then build a great convergent first chapter.

The art of writing a convergent first chapter

I warn you what I am about to reveal to you is going to tilt in the minds of some people.

Experiment, take a random bestseller and open it at the end of the first chapter.

You should notice that all the elements placed at the beginning of the story converge towards these last paragraphs.

For example:

“Harry Potter rolled over under his covers without waking up. His little hand closed over the letter placed next to him and he continued to sleep without knowing that he was an exceptional being (…)”

harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone joke Rowling

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you know that the first chapter focuses on the normalcy of the Dorsey’s, Harry Potter’s future foster family. They find themselves confronted with strange people all day long whispering rumors about the Potters.

The highlight of this day ends with the dropping of a baby on their doorstep (Harry Potter). An exceptional being as opposed to their normality.

We then realize that all the elements of the story converge towards this abandonment. Which makes it all the stronger.

To summarize, the last paragraph of the first chapter should highlight the information you want to highlight the most.

Here are some strategies to help you do this.

The best endings of first chapters

You had the toast. Here comes Nutella!

It’s all well and good to say that you have to put the most important information at the end of the first chapter, but in reality what do you put at the end?

Here are some proven strategies:

  1. end the chapter on a change in a character’s emotional state(e.g. in Queer by William Burroughs at the end of chapter one: “Lee leaned against a lamppost. The shock had sobered him (…)”)
  2. end on a mystery
  3. put a cliffhanger
  4. announce the visit to a new place/the discovery of a new person

In short, you have to make your reader want to know more.

Now that you understand a little better the strategies for captivating your reader in the first and the end of a chapter, let’s see how to write the middle of the first chapter.

How to write the middle of your first chapter?

I’m going to tell you something you need to know.

According to classical theory, a story has 3 acts. In these 3 acts, one or more characters have a problem/flaw that they must resolve.

Act 1 poses the problem of character. Act 2 chronicles this character’s efforts to resolve this problem. Act 3 concludes by saying whether or not the character has fixed their problem/flaw.

It’s very schematic but basically it’s what happens in a novel. Concretely, this means that your first chapters serve to establish the problem of your character, the theme of your story and the genre of your story.

At the start of your story, all you have to do is introduce your protagonist to their initial world (often a cramped space like their house, a broom closet, etc.) and their problem.

In the best stories, the hero has 3 types of problems:

  1. a personality flaw (he is cowardly, selfish, greedy, etc.)
  2. a practical problem (he secretly loves someone but he is not popular, he has to save the country, solve an investigation, etc.)
  3. relationship problems (he doesn’t get along with his family, doesn’t have friends, etc.)

Your task is in the first chapter to introduce the world of the protagonist and show what is wrong.

The beginning serves as a hook so that in the middle of the first chapter your reader gets to know your protagonist.

That’s all. But it’s huge because you have to be careful about the distribution of information.

The trap of chapter 1: information

The distribution of information is one of the major problems for writers. (that, coke…bitches…and mental issues….)

If you throw out too much information, your reader drops out. If you don’t release enough, he doesn’t get anything.

To write a first chapter, it’s the same!

Here are some tips that I can advise you after analyzing several bestsellers:

  1. don’t go deep into your character’s past in the first chapter, sketch it out to the limit but that’s it.
  2. place small elements that you will use for other chapters (this can be names of places, people, rumors, etc.)
  3. focus on your protagonist, his feelings in his current microcosm, his desires, his fears, his desires and above all confront him with a FUCKING PROBLEM.

Often the hero’s real practical problem will be revealed later, but usually we should get a taste of his personality and his way of dealing with problems in Chapter 1.

You can do that with a mini subplot. For example, a negotiation:

“Ah, you play the jokes with me, huh? Answer me, you little bastard. Did you hear what I told you?

Myron looked at him, very cool.

-you have a sprig of parsley between your teeth”

Excerpt from breach of contract by Harlan coven page 2

In this example, the hero Myron, a sports agent, finds himself face to face with a clumsy man during a negotiation for a sportsman.

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Despite the impressive stature of the guy, he does not flinch under his invectives and even allows himself a touch of humor. We instantly understand the character of Myron and his problem: he is courageous but perhaps a bit arrogant.

There you have it, an original way of subtly slipping information to the reader through the action.

In the jargon, this is called the “Show don’t tell”. That is to say, the fact of presenting the information in the form of action.

This is a very useful tactic for boosting your stories.

If I had to summarize this article on how to write a first chapter in three points, I would say:

  1. captivate the reader with an intriguing paragraph
  2. develop the microcosm of your hero without going into too much detail
  3. make the reader want to know more at the end of the chapter



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