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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tips from J.A. Konrath

Tips for the first chapter

  1. Make sure the first chapter starts with action.
  2. Show, don't tell. This means you don't need a one paragraph description of a bedroom, a character's thoughts on everything, and for god's sake don't put any back story in the first chapter.
  3. Keep it short. It doesn't have to be James Patterson short, but a ten page first chapter is better than a thirty page first chapter when it comes to grabbing attention.
  4. Watch your POV... try to stick in one character's mind for the whole chapter.
  5. Cut everything that doesn't move the action forward. EVERYTHING. If it moves the story forward, or gives us a better feel for the characters, put it in a later chapter, but not the first. Leave the reader wanting more, not knowing everything.
  6. You probably don't need a prologue. Editors often cut them, and readers often skip them. Try to remove it and see if the story suffers. If you really believe you need one, don't make it longer than a few pages.
  7. And this is the most important---trust yourself. You've been writing since you were four. You know how to craft a sentence. Not everything needs to be rewritten---sometimes it comes out right the first time.
Conflict is the main ingredient for successful fiction. The question of "What happens next?" is what keeps your audience glued to the page. Not pretty description. Not clever phrasing. Not cute dialog. The motor that drives the story is conflict. The central plot of any story should be centered around a conflict. The sub plots should introduce more conflict. There should be conflict on every page, and even in every paragraph.

Readers don't want characters to be happy. They want them to be tortured for 90,000 words, and then happy at the very end. Maybe. That's the essence of a page-turner
Travel for more useful tips to Joe's site.

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