Lessons From An Aspiring Author · Uncategorized

Lesson From an Aspiring Author: Chapter One


I am two years into my amateur writing career. It’s been that amount of time since I began to publish this blog. Since then I have written a completed manuscript, started on several new stories, had two short stories and a poem published in small publications, joined an online critique group, become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and received critical feedback from two published authors on Works-in-Progress.

My aspiration is to become a published author. Ideally I want to be published via the traditional route, but I am not completely opposed to self publishing (after I’ve given the traditional publishing industry a try.)

Two years into this writing gig I can look back and see how much I’ve grown. When I sat down to craft my first post I had no idea the road that would lie ahead and the people that would become a part of my story. I’ve learned so much about writing and I’ve gained wisdom beyond measure from successful authors.

That’s why I’ve decided to start this new writing series.

In the past, I’ve gone through a book with you on Saturday mornings. I’ve delved into chapters of books written by professionals and established my own writing voice as a result.

In this new series, Lessons from an Aspiring Author, ¬†I want to start to share parts of my journey with you as I reflect on where I’ve been on this great charge to write books.

Today I’m starting with some HUGE advice when it comes to starting a new book.


Chapter One

I was surrounded by strangers. I stuck out like a sore thumb as everyone else in the room seemed to be well acquainted. There were people with published books surrounding me. I couldn’t recall ever feeling more out of place than in this moment.

Then it was my turn.

All the eyes shifted my way as I was asked to join a group of others in a small circle. I joined them and handed them copies of my first chapter. One by one they started to read. The silence was deafening as I tried to interpret their facial expressions for any signs of approval.

Once they had all read the chapter, the published author within the group started off the critique, “This is a good first chapter, BUT…”

I took out a pen and soaked up her wisdom like a sponge.

Of all the things I’ve learned about the first chapter of a book one of the most important is that the first chapter should leave your reader with questions. Don’t try to give them all the answers they will need from chapter one. Make them curious. Make them intrigued. Give them enough of a glimpse into the life of your character without telling them the whole story outright.

Example excerpt from my critiqued piece: “They say that the day I was born was a tragedy. Not because I took my first breath, but because so many took their last. Fourteen years ago a group of angry men stormed into Times Square armed with their faulty religion and began to open fire on the tourists. Amongst the innocents was my Uncle Mark.”

Now, although when I sat down to start a new story it was necessary for me to know this information about my setting, it is not important for the reader to be given this knowledge on the first page. Think about The Hunger Games.¬†Chapter One of this book opens with Katniss waking up on the morning when the tributes would be selected. Suzanne Collins doesn’t spoil the story in the first chapter telling you the history behind the thirteen districts. She tells you enough so that as a reader you can understand that Katniss’ world is different from ours, but she waits to reveal the details until you have already forged a connection to Katniss as a reader.

The focus of the first chapter is to introduce your character in a way that intrigues your reader. Introduce clues to the larger problem they will face, but refrain from giving the big conflicts away too soon. Let your reader get to know your character and focus on that as you venture through the first portion of the book.

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

The Bionic Neurosurgeon

Just a little fiction to wet your palette. This is a short piece I wrote this week based on a prompt from The Write Practice. It’s a bit random, but was fun to write.

The Bionic Neurosurgeon

The snowboard landed a few feet from Weston in a mound of thick powdery snow. For a matter of minutes he lay unconscious sinking slightly under the weight of his own body. He had allowed his inner-daredevil to take charge when he made the decision to scale his way up to the expert course despite the warning of his insurance agent, Miguel.

When Weston awoke face-down in the snow he used his neck to pry himself from his present circumstance. Glancing at the imprint of his facial structure he smiled at its resemblance to the shape of his notorious iguana, Reptar. Weston keeps Reptar in a cage in his waiting room which he uses as a mechanism to lighten the mood at his private practice. Reptar is known throughout the town for his unusually long tongue and his ability to freak out all of the skittish women who work in the office like Eugenie, the surgeon.

“Doctor Eastmoor!” Weston heard his name reverberating off the mounds of surrounding snow. Eugenie and a couple of nurses came running urgently to his aid. It had been Weston’s idea to take the employees of his practice on the grand snowboarding adventure as their annual trip even though Eugenie had seriously questioned his motive.

“Doctor Eastmoor, it’s only been a few months since your bionic elbow was attached. You need it to heal properly before returning to the snow.” Eugenie had cautioned. She had been the one to perform the surgery which allowed Weston to keep his entire arm. Frostbite had nearly stolen his arm, hobby, and professional abilities last winter. At the time Eugenie had told him he would likely never snowboard again let alone perform another neurosurgery. But one month after attaching his bionic elbow he was cleared to return to his practice.When he had suggested the annual trip to the Snow Club he was met by critique from Eugenie, who seemed to be constantly reminding him of his new limitations.

“Can’t you find a safer hobby, Doctor Eastmoor?” Eugenie began. “Can’t you start a collection? I quite enjoy my antique microwave collection. It’s a lot of fun to invest in something you love. No danger there.”

So even though it was ill-advised, Weston book a cabin for the weekend and brought along his staff more for his own insurance than for a need for companionship. He was bound to not allow himself to give up his passion because of the new bionic addition.

As Eugenie approached Weston laying in the snow he saw, “I told you we shouldn’t have come here…” written all over her face. Before she could utter a word, however, he stood to his feet, checked that all extremities were intact, and then spoke irritably, “Don’t say a word, Eugenie. I’m fine.”