Books · Writing

Chapter Diagnostics

On my writing journey, I came across the idea to dissect the first chapters of published books. How do they start? What happens? How do they introduce characters?

So I took a new book and an older book and wrote out my Chapter 1 Diagnostics to try to strengthen my first chapters in my stories.

First up, Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks. This is a middle grade fantasy tale. Excuse my mix of cursive and print, I wasn’t really planning on sharing it when I did this months ago!

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And here’s A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, a middle grade sci-fi/fantasy.

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As you can see, I had more notes for Finding Serendipity. There were a lot of scene breaks in its first chapter. This was published by Scholastic, so I guess they didn’t mind! We are introduced to a lot of things in Finding Serendipity’s first chapter.

A Wrinkle in Time focuses more on Meg’s thoughts and experiences before we meet others. But the strange Mrs. Whatsit is introduced and we learn Meg’s little brother is very intelligent and quirky and had been meeting strange old “ladies.”

How can we use this information? In both cases, we start to know and care for the characters mentioned. Does our first chapter create connection to our character(s)? Is any problem introduced?

I struggled a lot with writing the first chapter of my finished manuscript. I have done several rewrites of the chapter. I just hope I am getting closer!

In exciting news, I entered the Pitch Wars contest, and I’m in the waiting period. From Brenda Drake’s website:

For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine. The mentor also critiques his/her writer’s pitch and query letter to get it ready for the agent round. Those entering Pitch Wars submit applications (query plus first chapter of manuscript) to their chosen mentors. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for two months to get them ready for the agent round.

I hope my diagnostics helped MY first chapter, and maybe they will help someone else!

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