What You Need to Know About Writing the First Chapter of Your Book
The First Chapter of a Book is often the most rewritten and reworked. Not only is the first chapter your calling card for your readers, but it is also your hook for literary agents and agents. The First Chapter of your book sets the standard for your writing and your story and sets the mood for the rest of the novel. Here are five important tips about writing first chapters
1 – Have a strong opening line“They shoot the white girl first.” – Toni Morrison, Paradise
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
It’s hard to write a strong opening line in your first draft. Most writers only gain true insight into what they are writing about and the tone they want to maintain long after they have finished their first draft. However, the opening line of your First Chapter is your hook. It needs to be strong and concise to engage the reader. It also has to follow your style and the tone of your novel. It can be tempting to start the First Chapter with a critical event or a shocking line but unless this fits in with the rest of the novel and the narrative style, it can be a big mistake. Readers are clever and they will sense insincerity within the first three pages, so unless you are able to follow through with your opening proposition, don’t do it.
2 – Drop into actionAnother important tip about writing your First Chapter is to always start with an event. It may seem natural to start with setting the scene and the mood, describing the weather, the place, the main character. After all, that’s how we writers begin writing in our heads, we see the whole scene before it happens. Resist the urge or rather, write it all down and then delete everything up until the point where the action begins. Sometimes, this means deleting the first three chapters until you can start with an event. This event may not be detrimental for the whole narrative but it has to be the starting point. Your reader needs to be drawn in from the very first paragraph and you want your reader to begin asking the questions straight away instead of being just a plain receiver of information. Answer the WHAT?, hint at the WHO?, mention the WHERE? but leave the WHY? for much later in the chapter or even the novel. You don’t have to start the action so far that you have to spend the following chapters giving background information and the build-up to the opening action but you definitely want to provoke the reader immediately.
3 - Introduce your Main CharacterRegardless of your narrator’s Point of View, you must introduce your characters in the First Chapter by showing them instead of telling your reader about them. If you are dropping your main character into action, which you should, you’re already describing them through their actions. Make them the centre of your first chapter. Your reader needs to know who they will be following. What kind of person are they? What are their desires and feelings? You want to use this First Chapter to set your main character up for greatness so don’t be afraid of using your starting action to make them uncomfortable or letting their true colours spill. This not only serves to introduce your Main Character but also the theme of your novel.
4 – Establish ConflictThe First Chapter has to show what the book is about but without telling the reader what the book is about. A good technique is to have the first chapter emulate the rest of the book. Make whatever happens in the novel on a great scale, throughout a wider space of time and several pages, happen on a small scale in the first chapter. Your reader needs to know what the book is about without being able to guess how it will unfold. If your book is not about solving murders, don’t start with a murder scene unless this is detrimental to the development of the plot. If your novel is a happy love story, feel free to start with a first date gone wrong scenario. What is important is that on the First Chapter, you show what your main character wants and how they are going about getting it, once you do this, feel free to spend the remaining 50 thousand words making sure your main character does not get what they want.
5 – ForeshadowingOnce you’ve established conflict and introduced your main character by dropping them into the action, use foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a plot device in wish you give a warning or indication of what is going to happen in the future. As mentioned above, your First Chapter should be condensed metaphor for your whole plot and the best way of doing this is through foreshadowing. Put your main character in a situation that can make the reader anticipate what is going to happen. However, beware of falling into typical clichés. You don’t want your foreshadowing to be so obvious that the reader sees through it. It’s okay if your reader gets the hint of what’s going to happen but not how it’s going to happen, otherwise, they will lose motivation to keep reading.
These five tips on writing your First Chapter should set you up for greatness but be prepared for a lot of editing and rewriting. Drafting is an important part of writing and one that should be enjoyed as it is detrimental for the good writing of a great First Chapter.
Find out how to translate and adapt your Europass Model CV to a British Model CV
The British CV format is different from the Europass Model used in mainland Europe. Despite the Europass being widely accepted and easily converted between European countries and languages, in Great Britain, an older model is used and the Europass, though not refused by most international and bigger-sized companies, is immediately recognised as foreign. Great Britain needs and welcomes foreign workers but the (reasonable) expectation is that workers are willing to adapt and adjust to the British way of doing things and the first impression they get of this is through your CV.
The British CV model is more focused on individual qualities and experience rather than a list of skillsets. It also seems to place more importance on work experience, easily foregoing academic qualifications where it is not relevant to the job application. It starts with a description of the job applicant’s qualities, a short and concise presentation of the person in three or four lines defining their job experience, relevant skills and particular traits. This description serves as bait to entice the employer to read further.
“Proactive Project Manager with over ten years’ experience in the Construction industry. Comfortable with tight deadlines and high budgets with a knack for motivating large teams to achieve a common goal successfully. Fast-learner and great at finding creative solutions for difficult problems and looking for the next challenge in a different industry.”
It’s extremely important that a CV contains this information, often titled “Personal Profile” or “Professional Profile”, even if this is the same kind of information typically conveyed in the application letter.
After this comes Education and Qualifications/Training. The same goes for Education. Where a qualification is not relevant for a job or is superseded by another more recent, it is not necessary to note them all. It is much more important to make reference to how your qualification has prepared you for the job through mentioning subjects, grades or coursework that helped you achieve a level of experience/knowledge.
Equally, in the British CV format, it is expected that only relevant experience is listed unless it’s really not much, though briefly accounting for gaps. Along with the dates, job title and workplace, it’s important to mention what the job consisted of, any important achievements or acquired skills but only in a way that is relevant for the job application. If you are applying for a position as a Software Engineer, it may as well be that your summer job as a student at a pub doesn’t need to be described, especially if you worked at an IT company for the last two years. This part is not all too different from the Europass, though it seems the Europass is more focused on the general experience acquired.
The Europass CV skills area also needs to be adapted for the British CV model. There is no European Language Passport or a common framework to define linguistic abilities. These fall into the General Skills category of the British CV model. In fact, generally, only Computing/IT skills are listed separately from General Skills, whereas the Europass CV model divides Personal Skills into Languages, Communication and Digital skills.
Another important distinction between the British CV model and the Europass CV model is the emphasis on personal interests and how these shape the job applicant and if they are, at all, related to the job. Where work experience and/or qualifications may not show a natural preference for the job being applied for, the interests may do so. For example, if someone is applying for a job in the wellness industry, having only ever worked at a fast-food restaurant, if their interests are, for example, sustainable living, they may stand a better chance of being called for the job. The focus of the British CV model is on the individual rather than their individual competences alone. In addition, the British CV model also has a section for Voluntary Work and Achievements. If you volunteer at the local pet hospital, you may have acquired skills/competencies that otherwise, you wouldn’t have. Likewise, if you’ve run one marathon a month, it shows tenacity, focus and determination which may not be as explicit in your work experience. This personal information seems to be optional and of little importance for the Europass CV model.
With regards to personal information, the British CV model does not require pictures or date of birth as these cannot be used to select candidates. Where it isn’t applicable for the job application, there is no need to mention whether the candidate has a driving licence or not.
More importantly, there isn’t an absolute template for British CVs, with the section names and order being interchangeable according to the candidate’s preference/job application. It is recommended that it doesn’t go over two pages, keeping all the information straight to the point and tailored to the job. The Europass CV model offers little room for adaptation and only through extensive editing can it be shorter than two pages but because it is such a standardised model, it is easier for recruiters to find the information they require easily.
So whether you require an Europass CV adaptation to the British CV model or vice-versa, it is important that your CV is translated into the target language with the precise terminology but also that it is formatted for the country you are sending your application to.
For my CV Translation and Adaptation services see here.