Four Tools for Revising Your First Chapter by Crystal Collier

Welcome Crystal Collier here today to share her new book and some writing tips!

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

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4 Tools for Revising Your First Chapter

Thank you Misha for having me here today!

We all struggle with beginnings. Let’s face it. You’ve got an epic story, but that first sentence is the toughest to get on the page.

My advice?

Skip it.

That’s right jump over that first sentence and just write.

What?!? Here’s the deal. It’s almost guaranteed you will come back and restructure your beginning. Hovering over the first sentence is like worrying what flavor of icing you want before deciding the flavor of the cake.

When you come back to revise, start as late into the story as possible. No traveling to the place where the story starts. No sitting and pondering the upcoming trouble. As a writer, it’s your responsibility to drop us into a boiling vat, right from the get go. (Meaning trouble–not necessarily climactic action.) What inciting incident sets the characters on a journey? Start us there.

So if you’re at the point where you’re ready to revise and make your beginning kick trash, where do you start? Good editing is about asking good questions. Here are some aspects you should question about your beginning:

(Disclaimer: I will be using examples from my books, not because I hold myself as an authority, but because this is a blog tour for my new release. Now BUY MY BOOKS. *winks*)

The first sentence: We appropriately put weight on this one line, but it doesn’t have to be a mind-blowing literary masterpiece. What it does need to accomplish is AT LEAST two of these things:

  • Introduce a question or problem.
  • Show us the viewpoint character. (Including the perspective of the story–1st person, 3rd person, etc.)
  • Establish the mood.
  • Give us a snatch of the setting.

Example: (MOONLESS) Alexia was reasonably confident that exiting the carriage was the equivalent of stepping into Hell. (Character, mood, setting, and problem.)

The first paragraph: By the end of this paragraph (or two), your reader MUST be asking a question. If you’ve done your job right, the reader will be immersed in drama, care about your character, and be anxious for the next line.

Example: (SOULLESS) Alexia’s eyes snapped open, heart thundering. Well, she wasn’t dead. Yet.

The reader might wonder, “Why does she think she’s going to die?”

The first page: By the end of the first 250 words, the reader needs to be grounded with the basics:

  • Who–is this character? (Name, gender, age, occupation, ethnicity or culture, orphan or surrounded by family/friends.)
  • Where? Physical location, time, etc.
  • What–is the problem?
  • Why–should I care? (Did you hook the reader on this character?)
  • and How–is the character going to face/overcome this problem?

If using an “all’s-well” opening (where we KNOW life is good and it’s going to be disrupted), there had better be a hint of trouble either foreshadowed or mentioned.

The first chapter: At this point, we all hope to have a bear trap clamped around the readers ankle. To do this, we need 1. a character they want to root for, or 2. a problem they need to solve, or 3. a metaphorical rug that got ripped out from under their feet. (Preferably, all three.)

1. This making us like the character, how does that work? Blake Snyder calls this the “save the cat” moment. The character has been placed in a circumstance where they have to show their inner convictions. In the first chapter of Soulless, Bellezza shows up to murder Alexia. Yay. Not only does Alexia escape her murderess by using her ability to freeze time, but faces Bellezza to interrogate her. (All while suffering through a blinding migraine caused by using her gift.) We see that she is angry and injured, but a person who confronts her fears rather than running away. There’s something to root for.


2. A problem that needs solving. We are all creatures of comfort. If there’s a problem, it creates discomfort in the reader’s mind, and a need for resolution. In the first chapter of TIMELESS, Alexia is battling the Knights Templar…eight months pregnant. (Yup. There’s the problem.) They have hunted her and her companions from one place to another…all while facing the inevitable deadline of birth. Which could happen on the battlefield. Get to solving, Alexia!

3. The rug ripped out from under your feet. This is that moment, that last line or thought that makes you go, “Brrr?” The first chapter of Moonless ends with a mystery. A man straight out of Alexia’s nightmares has appeared at a social gathering–the man she saw in her most recent dream standing over her dead host. Who here has met someone face to face who first appeared in their dreams?

In the end, formulating the perfect beginning is just about hooking your readers. Do that, and you’ve got it made.

What is your favorite/least favorite story convention for hooking readers?

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.

Find her and her books online HERE.

(Email address is required for awarding prizes.)

Opening Blog-tour

Hi all! Today I welcome Stephen Tremp to MFB. He’s here to tell us about exploding stars, black holes and Opening, his newly released novel.

Thanks for stopping by, Stephen.

Thank you Misha for hosting me on this, my final stop on the Grand OPENING Tour! I’m honored. I thought we would close things out with a bang, and what bigger bang can we imagine than an exploding star.

A Supernova: is an explosion of a massive supergiant star. It shines with the brightness of up to ten billion suns and is one of the most energetic explosions in the universe. Scientists believe supernovae happen in our Milky Way galaxy about once or twice a century. Supernovae are classified as a Type I Supernova or Type II supernova depending on the shape of their light curves and the nature of their spectra. In less than a second, a neutron star or a black hole is born. Supernovae explosions are not merely the death of a star. These massive explosions seed the universe with heavy elements (muy importante) that help to make up new stars, planets, and everything on earth, including you and me.

Black Hole: Any object whose escape velocity exceeds the speed of light. With each black hole there is a point of no return called the event horizon. Picture Niagara Falls. You see someone caught in the river heading toward the falls. If he is far enough away he can swim to the shore. But there is a point where the current is too strong and the swimmer cannot escape. He is going over no matter how much energy he expends to swim to the shore. This is similar to the Event Horizon of a black hole. Even light cannot escape a black hole. That’s what makes it black.

Fun Theories (no fun facts here as we have yet to actually observe a black hole): There are two types of black holes. Stellar Black Holes form from collapsed stars. It is possible for black holes to collide and form larger black holes. It is believed by many physicists and astronomers that super massive black holes, called Galactic Black Holes, reside at the center of each galaxy. These can be as large as hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses.

Fun Theory: Physicists also believe there may be rogue black holes cruising (not stationary) around the universe. I hope one doesn’t cross our solar system. That would be a bad day for us.

Fun Theory: Some believe you can enter a Black Hole and emerge out the other side in another place and time. Black Hole = Time Machine. But in all probability, you would die before going through.

Fun Theory: Mini black holes are theoretically possible, but have yet to be created in a laboratory. At least, that the general public is aware of. Recently a lawsuit was brought against CERN for fear their research could bring about the end of the world, possibly by man-made mini-black holes. Thank again to Misha for hosting me today. And thank you all for supporting me on the Grand OPENING Tour. I could not have done this without you!

Insert Cheesy Self Promotion: Finally, tomorrow’s my birthday, or today, depending on which day you’re reading this. It’s March 22nd. If you feel so inspired to get me something, outside of a brand new 2012 souped-up turbo 3000 Wormhole with racing stripes, you can download either or both my books BREAKTHROUGH and OPENING at Amazon Kindle. At a buck ninety-nine each, you can’t beat it with a stick! They’re also available for download at SMASHWORDS Thanks again everyone. You’ve been great! Next up is the Grand OPENING Tour Roundup on Friday, then the A to Z Challenge. Remember to visit me at Breakthrough Blogs!