Guest Blog by Deena

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I've got a good friend, Deena doing a guest post. If you're on inkpop, you might know her as ThatCinderellastory. Be sure to visit her blog! Enjoy her post!

Something everyone wants *cough* needs is to make chapter numero uno the best that it can be. 
Basically because all chances of you ever getting published pretty much rest on its shoulders. 

Here are some random tips that have all come out of the mouths of one or more agents at one point in time or another. Yes, I have revised them to make them more reading friendly and less boring in general.

1. Avoid clich├ęs like the plague. 
They are the figurative equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard to an agent. 
What your book says: “It was a dark and stormy night” 
What the agent sees: “This book is going to suck” 

2. Avoid being unoriginal. 
You are pretty much personally flushing your manuscript down the toilet when you use an unoriginal concept. 
What your book says: “I’m an original book about a girl who has a secret identity.”
What the agent sees: “Halfway through chapter one, you’re going to forget the main character’s name and description and just picture her as Hannah Montana the rest of the way.”

3. Avoid hero nicknames. 
If your main character has a name, use the dang thing. Don’t name him Engleburt in chapter one and then call him Burt the rest of the book. One, it’s confusing. Two, that’s totally ridiculous and a waste of precious word count. You could have saved yourself that 25 to 50 words and just called him Burt in the first place.
What your book says: “My name is Engleburt, but I hate that, so call me Burt.”
What the agent sees: “My parents were on crack when they had me, Call me Burt and get confused the rest of the time because Engleburt and Burt don’t even start with the same letter.”

4. Stay away from dream scenes/prologues as an opening. 
It makes a reader feel cheated. 
What your book says: “This is a beautiful dream scene and/or prologue that is important in the last chapter of the book only.”
What the agent sees: “SYKE! You just wasted ten minutes of your life reading this and getting a feel for the book when really, 95% of the book doesn't even have the same feel.”

5. Avoid making your first chapter look like you're reading the character's doctor records. 
Ancestors, hair and eye color, height, weight, facial descriptions, medical conditions, these can all be woven into the actual story.
What your book says: “I’m establishing backstory.”
What the agent sees: “You’re getting sleeeeepy.” 

6. Keep your opening clean.
You want your opening to be original, but don’t do something tasteless. 
What your book says: “I’m the first book in history to start out with a character peeing off the deck!” 
What the agent sees: “There’s a reason I’m the first book in history to start with a character peeing off the deck.”

7. Don’t open a book like it’s a letter to your reader.
That’s just weird.
What your book says: “I’m fun and cute and I’m going to address my readers so they feel like part of the story.”
What the agent sees: “I see you sitting there on your bed reading this book. I’m incredibly creepy and you now feel like someone is watching you.”

8. Save the small talk for when you visit grandma.
Avoid opening with the weather or something else that would lead to small talk and not much else.
What your book says: “This is probably foreshadowing.”
What the agent sees: “The character is making small talk with me, I suddenly have a heightened sense of awareness involving my age and this conversation most likely won’t lead to anything constructive.”

9. Don’t kill a character in chapter one.
Just say N-O to drugs and dead characters.
What your book says: “It was important that this person died here.”
What the agent sees: “HA! I just wasted ten minutes of your life making you like this guy and then I killed him.”

There it is, do's and don't. Of course these are the rules and not the exception. Sure, maybe you are incredibly talented and can make one or all of the above work. If you feel brave enough, shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the SlushPile.


Riv Re said...

Nice guest post. Missing you, Laura ;) Hope you're enjoying Sante Fe. *sings again*
I've actually read and loved one book that breaks the first rule: Infinite Days. This was one of my big problems with the book. I knew the character for a few pages, and was sad to see him go. Which, I suppose, says a lot about Rebecca Maizel, the author, that she can make you love a character so quickly.

Loved the post!

Deena Shoemaker said...

Thanks! :)

There definitely are some authors who can break the rules and make it work so incredibly well.

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