When you send your work off to a literary agent or a publishing house, you will not be not alone. In fact, will more likely than not be competing with hundreds of similar authors for the attention of the readers who will evaluate your piece. These readers, like the audience you hope to one day reach, will largely judge your work on the quality of its opening chapters. If you hope to be published, you had better make sure that these opening chapters do their jobs flawlessly.
Grabbing your reader’s attention is the most important task that your opening chapter will accomplish. Different writers find that different techniques work best for gripping the reader right from the start. Some writers start with a piece of interesting dialogue, while others prefer to use powerful language to describe the scene and set the mood. Studying your favorite authors – or maybe some terrible authors that you read anyway because the opening was so good – can help you pick up some of the techniques that draw the reader into the story right from the beginning.
In addition to getting your readers interested, your story’s opening needs to get them oriented. The first few chapters shouldn’t give the reader a crystal ball into the plot ahead, but they should get the reader familiar with the logical premises of the plot. Make sure that your readers don’t leave the first three chapters without all of the information they need to make sense of your setting and your story.
If your story’s opening fails to grab your reader’s attention or get them adequately prepared for the narrative, then you risk losing your reader before you’ve even gotten to the good part. However, an interesting and informative opening chapter can get even the most jaded editor enthralled with your story.