Feeling unsure about my opening (again)

Deke

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Hey guys, I just finished my first chapter of my book (I’m writing a prequel, shorter than a 120,000 word novel, a typical word count for a space opera) so I can really get a feel for the complete process before I dive into a full series.

I crafted what I think is a really good outline and intro to my universe. The idea is to offer it for free on KDP to get people hooked on some of the characters, the universe, and the story.

After finished the opening chapter I am getting some doubts about how I am choosing to open. I went back and read some of my favorite space operas, Starship Troopers, Expeditionary Force, Legionnaire in the galaxies edge series and they all open with some action.

In my little prequel novel we open with my main character arriving at her very first command, a Terran Frigate named Horatius, and talking about her nerves and describing the ship, getting settled and taking her out for her first patrol.

The second chapter has the inciting incident (a distress call after they rendezvous with a destroyer). This is all going down according to a typical three act story structure, that’s how I set up the outline.

It felt good to me at the time I crafted all this, but I worry I am not doing enough to hook the reader. This may just be typical first book self doubt every writer faces, but I could really use some feedback. Do you guys think I should just post the chapter in the critique section and get some feedback on how it feels?

Currently I am pushing ahead and working on the second chapter, and will continue to do so but I would really appreciate some fans of the genre letting me know what they would prefer to see in an opening chapter.
 

The Judge

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I don't read military SF, so you know far better than I do what sells at present, but just because other novels all start with action doesn't mean you have to, as long as you do ensure the opening holds the reader in some way. Having said that, though, I'd aim to have the inciting incident in the first chapter, so it might be you're best off starting with her taking the frigate out on the first patrol and just quickly fill in the backstory with her having to control her nerves/thinking everyone is watching her as it's her first command blah blah, and then have the distress call coming after just a page or two.

But yes, post the first, say, 800-1000 words of the first chapter in Critiques and see what reaction you get. That at least will tell you if the opening itself is grabby enough. You can always then follow it up with a second thread giving, say, another 1200-1500 words so that we can see how it continues.
 

Wayne Mack

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I feel it is sufficient to start with activity. Starting with an action scene, especially a full blown battle is not necessary and can actually get tiresome.

In my little prequel novel we open with my main character arriving at her very first command, a Terran Frigate named Horatius, and talking about her nerves and describing the ship, getting settled and taking her out for her first patrol.
I would avoid having the character talking about her nerves and describing the ship. Have the main character find her state room, deal with an insubordinate underling, deal with an arrogant superior, etc. and show what her fears might be.
 

Susan Boulton

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My advice is to finish your story. If you keep going back and altering the beginning then you find you don't get much progress. Just keep ploughing on and get a first draft done. You can make notes, re changes you want to consider as you go, but you can find that once you start editing you may re-write the whole first chapter. (been there done that more than once.)
 

Toby Frost

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I agree that you should finish the story. Apparently, Stephen King sometimes writes long, meandering starts to his stories, which he then cuts so that the story starts at a suitably dynamic point. But without the rest of the story, you might well not know what that point is.
 

Deke

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Thanks, that is probably the best path forward. I’m just going to keep ploughing ahead and come back to it later.
 

sknox

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Another reason to keep going is this: it's probably not your opening. That is, once your novel is finished and published, you will very likely have started the story somewhere else. At least, that's how it has happened with me, even in cases where I was sure *here* was the start. So now I just start in and try to avoid thinking of it as Chapter One. And I certainly don't try for hook or anything like that. The hook gets set later, during edits.
 

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