Below are actionable tips for new writers on submitting manuscripts from the founders of AOS Publishing – a literature publisher based out of Montreal and serving emerging and established authors in Canada.
Many new writers are concerned with writing their first chapters and they have trouble figuring out what they should include and what they should leave out until later.
When you’re submitting a manuscript in order to get an agent or find a publisher, it’s important that you hook them from the opening paragraph. A lot of agents have admitted that sometimes they ONLY read the first few sentences and if they’re not intrigues, they won’t read the rest of it. That might sound cruel, but why should they continue to read something that they think is boring when there are so many other stories in their “slush pile” to read? You need to engage the reader right from the beginning if you want them to care about your novel.
I think the best way to learn is to revisit some of your favorite books. Most of the time, they had something that caught your attention right away. There was something to it that made you keep reading. You need to make sure you have “that thing” in your own novel.
Here are the dos and don’ts of writing an engaging opening hook for new writers:
Construct a scene that best represents your character
I’m not going to tell you there’s a wrong and right way to open your novel, because it really all depends on your novel. You need to know your character before you can begin writing your story, so only you will know how you should start it off. The best advice I can give is to construct a scene that lets us feel their isolation. You don’t necessarily need to open your book with action, but you do need to introduce the conflict. Think about what your character wants and go from there. As a new writers it’s difficult but every great writers were new writers once.
Help set the scene
The first chapter is a good time to explore the setting of your novel. You’re not going to use this chapter to completely describe your world, but you need to give your readers a taste of it. Use all your senses to present the setting to us. What does your character feel? Are they afraid? Are they happy? Are they cautious? Putting emotion into your scenes from the beginning will not only help set the tone, but we’ll get an immediate understanding of your world.
Introduce only important information
The first chapter is not the time to give us a long, drawn-out explanation of your world and characters. You need to find the simplest and most exciting way to get information across to your readers, so that they’ll be hooked from the beginning. Get your audience to care about your story. Don’t drag it down with details that don’t matter yet. Think of your first chapter as an introduction to an essay. You don’t go right into the points immediately, but you set us up for something good.
Describe your main character in detail
We don’t need to know everything about your main character in the first chapter. We don’t need to know everything about what they look like, their best friends, how they would describe themselves in the mirror, etc. If you want to do these things, they’re best left for later chapters. Your readers do not need to know everything from the beginning to get into your story. Give them a taste and draw them in.
Give long explanations
When writing a scene, it’s easy to get caught up in everything that you want to talk about all at once. You have to remember that you’ll have time to explain things later and it will probably be much more interesting if your readers have to wait. You don’t need to mention everything that’s happening and why it’s important. Present the information in the most engaging way possible. We don’t need your main character to make a page long speech in the first chapter of your novel.
Fill your readers with unnecessary back story
Again, too much back story in your first chapter will kill your momentum. Anything that’s unnecessary to know from the beginning can be put off until later. I know it’s exciting to get into the meat of your novel, but your readers have to care about your world and characters before you keep talking about it. Don’t be afraid to cut something or push something back to later chapters. You’ll also improve the pacing of your novel if you keep these things in mind.
It’s super important to remember that all of these things won’t apply to every novel. There are times when the opening of your novel will break all these rules and there will be exceptions to every single one of them. However, if you keep getting feedback that people “can’t get into your novel”; it might be because your first chapter is weak. Also, if you’re having trouble with your first chapter and can’t seem to get it right, leave it for later. You can always go back and change something if you don’t love it.
Find out more about us at www.aospublishing.com, we are currently accepting submissions for Fall 2021.