The Chapter Two Challenge

I didn’t plan my first novel. I had an idea, scrabbled to get it down and then hit a snag: I could’t quite get one plot point to happen the way I wanted it to. So, I stepped back, planned out some possibilities and completed the first draft with a flourish. 

Now, I’m revising it all. I struggled so much with the first chapter; getting the tone right, making my protagonist sympathetic, starting just at the right point…I’m happy with the way it stands now. I’m confident that I’ve got the right first chapter to my novel. But – and this is a big but – what to include in Chapter Two?

Do you struggle writing Chapter Two too?

Do you struggle writing Chapter Two too?

There is a wealth of information on how to approach that initial chapter and tips for making sure you’ve included all the right elements. I’ve read what feels like all of them (yet is probably just a fraction). And here I am, having succeeded with my first chapter now stumped by Chapter Two. 

Fortunately I have managed to find one (Yes, read it and weep people: 1) particularly thoughtful blog post on what we writers should consider for our second chapter content. Thank god for Beth Hill and her post on ‘Where should a Second Chapter start?‘  She has some very astute points that has reaffirmed my recent inkling that I need to introduce my sub-plot before I delve too far into my main story.

I love her advice that we need to draw the reader away from what they expect. As soon as I read this titbit of information I realised just how frequently I’ve seen this done in other books I’ve loved. The author starts you on one path, seduces you into caring and then…they introduce something else. Because I so desperately want to know what happens next I speed-read through chapter two, only to find that when I finish reading this bit I’m even more invested in the story than ever before; nothing will stop me reading now.

That is what is so great about Beth’s post. After all the Chapter One advice I’ve felt bereft when it came to tackling Chapter Two. But now I feel armed and ready to jump right into it and have some fun developing a sub-plot that could potentially be just as exciting as the main thread. 

Bring it on, Chapter Two…


What about you – what are your tips for Chapter Two content? Do you wish there was more out there about this oft-neglected challenge of keeping your reader enthralled after Chapter One?
Let me know in comments or Tweet Me.


4 responses to “The Chapter Two Challenge

  1. I’ll be facing this in about a week’s time (so tempted to begin the next edit now!) as I’ve edited Chapter One many times but not chapter two… I think I’ll bookmark that post for then. I guess if it fulfils the general “must haves in scenes” things – hook, backstory, action, character development… and it also has some form of bridge between 1 and 3… then it works?

    Maybe I’ll have more to say once I’m actually looking at it in my own work…

    • Oooh, yes: let me know how you fare! I’m currently drafting my second chapter as a means to further develop my protagonists motivation and demonstrating how he believes it is a positive trait, when actually it just gets him into trouble down the line!

      Would be very interested to hear how your own second chapter fares in comparison to the points in the post referenced.
      Good luck with it! Thanks for commenting.
      Take Care, Cat x

  2. This is a technique used quite famously by George R. Martin in his Game of Thrones books. Myself, I write quite non-linearly and often write middle and ending chapters first, jigsawing the pieces together at the end (by this point chapter two has been written before I even knew it was chapter two).

    If I were you I wouldn’t bother with a Ch2 and just write the scenes you know you’re going to enjoy, coming back later to glue it all together.

    Perhaps I can write a blog post about that.

    Nah, Great British Bake-Off is on TV instead.

    • I’m not a Game of Thrones fan unfortunately.
      Problem is, I have most of my major scenes and I’m at the point of needing to glue it all together, so am looking for how to make that work. I’ve not really had a solid subplot in place, so it seems wise to develop one and fit it in as I’m doing the structural edit. I’m not really very fond of non-linear writing at this stage, as I lose the understanding of who knows what and where they’re at, if you know what I mean.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting though..much appreciated 🙂
      Take care, Cat x

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