Construction of a Novel: Chapter One

So it’s been a while since my last ‘Construction of a Novel’ post, but that’s mainly because it’s taken me some time to get the opening chapter finished. I’ve been working on several short stories and haven’t been able to give the new novel my full attention. But I finally completed the first chapter and figured it was time for the next in this series of posts.

First chapters are tricky. They have to grab the reader from the outset. They have to introduce major characters and the novel’s setting. They have to provide some insight into the conflict to come. They have to set up all the pieces and put them in motion. And they have to keep the reader hooked to the end and eager for the next chapter. (I guess all chapters have to fulfill that last part, but I think it’s most important in the opening chapter. If readers don’t begin to invest emotionally in the characters and start to enjoy the world and scenario you’re setting up, why should they carry on with the rest of the book?)

I hope I’ve managed to achieve all this in my opening chapter. I’m pretty pleased with it at the moment, although there might be elements to tweak later on. I’m highly invested in these characters now and I know I have to stick with them for the long run.  I’m realising I have a lot of elements to juggle here. It’s spec fic, but it’s set in this world. It’s sci-fi, but it deals with deep, emotive, human issues. It takes lots of ideas that I’ve long wanted to write about and puts them all into one melting pot, which is a little daunting at this stage. But exciting… I’m enjoying writing about these things and looking forward to the elements I have yet to introduce. (Even if I’m occasionally struck by the thought that I’m writing a science fiction coming-of-age government conspiracy thriller – HOLY CRAP WHAT AM I DOING?! Deep breath.)

I have a dedicated notebook for this one, which I started a couple of weeks ago. During my last novel, my desk was awash with notes. Random pages, bunched paper, hastily-jotted points, scribbled maps, a detailed timeline of events, character profiles, dates, blah, blah, blah. This time I’m determined to be more organised and a single bound book in which I can scrawl whenever I need to seemed much more sensible. Plus I can take it anywhere and instantly have all my notes to hand. Also… notebooks are wondrous and I’m delighted to have an excuse to have a new one on the go.

So that’s chapter one. My characters are already going through some scary stuff. And argh… so am I.

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