Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, August 06, 2007

The first 3 chapters vs. your whole book

I read this article http://www.writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/004125_06272007.html and it reminded me of the many books I've read which had some GREAT first chapters, but after Chapter 3, the whole thing just died down. The story got dull. The action stopped. The characters started spending their scenes in La-La Land.

So, what happened? Where did that story that GRIPPED ME BY THE THROAT from the first to third chapter GO? Why did things all of a sudden die down and head south?

The above article may be the reason why. So much effort and time is put into making the first three chapters of a book GREAT, but not so much is put into making the REST of the book one long adrenalin rush.

This hasn't happened with EVERY book that I have read, but just some of the books. This is why I spend time reading a book before I'll buy it. If I get to chapter 4 and STILL see some good stuff, I'll keep reading. If I get to the point where I'm CONSTANTLY going back to reading this book, or where I know I MUST add it to my collection because it is sooo good, THEN I will buy it.

Most of the time, I'll buy a book written by a friend or acquaintance. Or I'll buy a book because it gives me what I am looking for. But I won't buy a book -- i.e., a novel -- where the story deep sixes come Chapter 4.

I definitely support the importance of making the first three chapters of a novel stand out, but, in my opinion, you HAVE to make the rest of the book just as good, too. Otherwise, it's a HUGE disappointment -- both to the editor AND the reader. Keep the story going even AFTER you've written the first three chapters. Keep things interesting, tintillating, EXCITING! Make the WHOLE story stand out and not just the first 3 chapters.

That is what I feel should be done when it comes to writing a novel. The first chapter is like a nibble of a dessert. The next chapter is like a bigger bite. The only reason anyone would continue to eat a dessert item is if it is GOOD! The same goes with a story. Keep things interesting. Keep things GOOD! Make the next chapter BETTER than the last one! Keep readers reading, wanting to know what happens next, if the hero escapes/lives, who saves the day, etc. Keep readers guessing. Keep readers eating. Keep readers READING!

The only way to do that is to keep your story good -- from the first chapter to the very last. And not just from the first chapter to the third.

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