What I’ve Learned Writing the First Chapter of a Novel


Like many others for 2018, I begin with a target. 100, 000 words. I’m on my first big writing adventure, attempting a novel. To anyone who loves writing like me, the first chapter is definitely the biggest learning curve. Here’s what I’ve learned within my first month of writing, I hope to help all you aspiring writers out there! 


Show, don’t tell?

I began writing with the best of intentions. I had a character in mind, a setting, a plot outline. I knew my story would be a thriller, a detective one, a type I’ve loved reading for years. I just had to try it out, in hopes of writing something worthy of my inspirations in the genre. Then, it came to describing and I found a lot of what I was saying was bland. ‘He went there, she said that’ and I thought, how boring this isn’t a primary school story – At least I don’t want it to be.

I was in a book shop and spotted a Writer’s Forum magazine and impulse bought it. I read lots of advice segments and found one with a similar problem to mine. The advice I saw was put so well, it blew my mind!

Show, don’t tell. 

It really makes a difference! It basically means instead of just informing your readers what is happening in a scene, you almost transport them there. You show them the scene, using the senses.

For Example, to describe how my character felt at the beginning of my chapter one first draft, I could have written “I felt anxious”, it would have been an okay opening, but I decided to write with a little more impact. Instead, I wrote:

“The overly obnoxious wailing of a siren to indicate a ‘cage’ being opened almost made me throw up right there…”

This opening gives the feeling of unease and displays an anxious feeling without being as blunt about it, allowing the reader to feel more.

There are many exceptions to this rule! There are often times when a scene calls for the writer to tell instead of showing. I highly recommend this article that wonderfully describes the art of showing and telling!

Slow and Steady! 

I’m so impatient! I just wanted to begin writing and then have it finished in the same day if possible. The idea of my novel taking months is quite scary and daunting! I set myself a slow paced target for chapter one. Yes, write everyday but don’t force it. I spent a week writing my first chapter and by the end of it I was delighted, racking up 2,336 words! It felt natural, I became invested in my own story – I wondered what twists and turns would pop up along the way! If I rushed too much, I know I’d never go back to my draft – it’d fall to the wayside like so many ill thought attempts in the past. I wanted this time for it to be different. Writing is important to me, if I could one day get something published, that’d be something HUGE off of the bucket list.

I also had to consider how inexperienced I was at it all, it became very important to learn the ins and outs of it all. I also couldn’t neglect reading! Instead of putting all of my efforts into writing, I split up my time and ended up so relaxed for it! Writing didn’t feel like a chore or thankless job.

Pinterest saves the day – As always!

Being stuck for ideas or motivation stinks! I had no idea what would be on Pinterest but when I typed in ‘Writing tips’ I was not disappointed. So many talented writers have put a lot of effort into making great pins! Pinterest is by far one of the best free resources out there! I gave my Pinterest a good cleanup recently, getting rid of some old boards I never use anymore and began a writing board where I save some great writing tips and ideas!

Follow my writing board here for to get motivated and inspired!


Working on Paper Helped!

This one is definitely down to personal preference, but I was so much more productive writing my draft on paper! I bought an A4 refill pad that was tinted green and wrote away with a very cheap ballpoint pen. I wrote until my pen almost caught fire! Writing on Microsoft Word is good, but I always get distracted by the internet and end up doing feck all. After I finished the chapter I typed it out, just as it was, on my laptop. I know it’s an extra step but it worked so well for me!

The only thing I noticed was how you could have written a whole A4 page, only to realise it was tiny on Word. I do have big writing and have always been one for leaving large spaces in between my words! (I have no idea why!)

I hope some of these little things I’ve learned can help you on your own writing journey! I will definitely be updating you on my progress as more chapters come. Feel free to contact me for any advice, or if you have any suggestions for a new writer please do share them in the comments! 

Maggie! X

One Reply to “What I’ve Learned Writing the First Chapter of a Novel”

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