Before I decide to take on a new manuscript, I first ask to review the first few pages. This is typically either the first chapter or the prologue (if there’s one). I do this because these first few pages are the most important parts of any manuscript that comes across my desk. It lets me know whether the writer has 1) self-edited, 2) paid close attention to hooking their readers, and 3) understands the essence of the story they wish to tell.  The beginning is always the most important part of any storytelling process, whether it is a work of nonfiction, fiction, self-help, a movie script, or a play script. Here are a few reasons why you should pay close attention to the opening lines of your manuscript:
To Grab Your Readers’ Attention
Personally, if I can’t get through the first few lines of a book, I immediately lose interest. That means I am not buying the book, and if it is free, I am not making it past those pages to get to the interesting parts, and, I will not be recommending that book to anyone else that I care about. In her article, 8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One, Elizabeth Sims likens a good Chapter One to a delicious appetizer served at a restaurant. As she puts it, it’s “small, yet so tremendously important. And so full of potential.” That is such a precise description of how you want your first chapter to read. 

To Keep Your Reader Interested In Reading Chapter 2
A client recently said to me: "the good part is in the middle of the book, that's where the action begins!" While I agree that there is no problem with having the action in the middle of the book, the point of the chapters preceding the middle part where the action is, is to keep the reader wanting more until they get there. Again, if a reader doesn't get through your first chapter, there's a chance they won't get to the second or the third or the fourth chapter in order to get to the "good part where the action is." 

Your First Chapter Sets the Tone for the Rest of the Story
From personal experience, I can safely say that the hardest part of writing a story (any story) is getting started. If you are confused by your beginning, then your next chapters and the rest of the story are going to confuse you too. With a good, solid opening, however, you will find that the rest of the story flows throughout. 

The First Chapter Sets The Standard For Readers' Expectations
Whether those expectations are high or low all depends on how good of a job you do on that first chapter. This is why it's very important to keep the momentum going throughout the story. Don't lead the reader on if you have no intention of delivering what you promised in Chapter One. In other words, you can't write a terrific first chapter and second and third, only for things to go downhill from there - meaning the middle to end are a huge disappointment and you come across as a fraud. A book should be either good or bad throughout. If it starts off good and ends badly, you're a fraud. If it starts off bad but ends well, you're an amateur whose book is never getting read; at least not by people who don't really give chances.


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