First chapters: Even better than first dates!
by Jessa Slade on January 26th, 2009

Currently working on: The heroine’s betrayal
Mood: Sadistic

I love first chapters. My first three hit the page with a speed that I won’t match again until I start the next story. I’m not saying they are great chapters. In all honesty, they usually suck and often have nothing to do with the story itself. But that doesn’t lessen my enthusiasm for first chapters at all.

Because I think of first chapters like first dates. (You probably started to see the correlation with the ‘usually suck’ part.) Hey, I’m a romance writer at heart. (The previous parenthetical comment notwithstanding.)

  • Firsts are all about the excitement that anything could happen. That charming guy you’ve agreed to meet for cocktails could be a millionaire bachelor — or a serial killer! See? How exciting! First chapters are like that too. I never know if I’m onto something… or if I’m going to end up with three chapters that need to be drenched in lye and buried at a crossroads with their heads removed lest they come back to haunt me.
  • blank_page2

  • During firsts, everyone is on their best behavior. I come to my keyboard perky and coiffed… okay, not literally coiffed, but my desk is clear, my notes are piled tidily. But eventually comes that first hiccup. Oh sure, it made me giggle once. How sweet that my characters feel comfortable enough with me to share their… er, inner selves. Then I realized it wasn’t a hiccup. No, that was a full-on burp. Nay, a belch. It’s a turning point in the relationship (coming about the same point as the first turning point in the three-act structure) and the infatuation is over. We stare at each other over cups of coffee, and the silence thickens as I contemplate throwing that metaphorical sexy strappy sandal through my screensaver.
  • nude_words

  • Firsts have no baggage. I arrive at the first date with one of those supremely cute little beaded clutches without room even for a mass market paperback much less my Alpha Smart. The cursor blinks at the beginning of a pristine blank page. But even then I know this isn’t like a first date to the hottest new nightclub; this is like the first step of an around-the-world walkabout with scenic sidetrips up Everest, down the Amazon, and across the Sahara. You gotta pack for that.
  • Firsts offer freedom. There’s no commitment, and I can try on new clothes, be whoever I want to be. Eventually though, I’m going to have to decide: Is this a story for which I’m willing to strip myself bare?
  • Ah, the passion and promise of those first chapters, when the story is young and fresh, not to mention thin and pliant. This is no time to think about the sagging middle…

    So what’s your best worst first date story? When did you realize the magic was gone?

    9 comments to “First chapters: Even better than first dates!”

    1. 1


      I always feel so smart and creative in my first three chapters. Then I get to … the rest of the book.

      To follow your first date analogy, this would be “the morning after” when your mascara is smeared, the lighting isn’t so kind and you need to brush your teeth. The blank page stares at you as if to say, “And you are?”.

      Ouch, it’s really a challenge to maintain that excitement all the way through to “THE END”.


    2. 2

      If my first chapters are dates, they’re like speed dating. Quick, glib, and thrown away to try again within minutes because the first 500 first tries are drek ….

    3. 3

      [...] at Silk And Shadows I’m at Silk And Shadows today, talking about all the ways first chapters are like first [...]

    4. 4

      Ha. Ah yes, the ‘coyote morning,’ where you’d rather chew your arm off than wake your bed partner when you slip away. Coyote mornings are sooo much easier on a computer: DELETE!

    5. 5

      I thought I was the only one who felt this way. My first three chapters are the ones that have me floating on cloud 9, smiling and looking at the bright side of things. By chapter 6 comes the “screening the phones calls” part of writing, You know you sit down at the computer and your planing the write then you start surfing the internet. Chapter 12 is about when the “cheating” starts, ( oh come on I’m not the only one with multiple story’s) This is when another story is looking way better. Wow, I never thought of it but writing a book is like a love affair. Just think how happy we are when its over.

    6. 6

      My first date/chapter? It’s like getting picked up in some really hot guy’s convertable Porche. We speed along on mountain roads with the wind in our hair and breathtaking vistas spread out before us. We’re feeling young, chic, invincible…anything is possible. Until of course the car gets a flat somewhere in chapter five and we hit the guard rail bending the chasis and end up in the body shop getting a total overhaul. Sigh.

    7. 7

      A new diet has the same affect on me. I’m so full of hope in the beginning. So much goal setting and determination!

      Go, go, go and lose the water weight!

      Then reality sets in…it’s really “work”!

      I’m still trying! :lol:

    8. 8

      Ooh, Katherine, a new blog topic: How writing a book is like a diet…

    9. 9

      Gypsie– aren’t those chapter 12 new stories just the best? Like sneaking off to the coffee shop around the corner terrified your old lover will walk in the door. Such guilty pleasures we indulge in, but so much more fun than slogging through the middle!

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