No matter how many times I rewrite the first chapter I'm not satisfied. Should I keep rewriting or should I go with one and write the book even if the beginning is not the greatest?

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I’m assuming this is your first attempt at writing a novel, otherwise it wouldn’t be a problem because you would have worked your way through it in previous attempts. Unless, of course, you’ve never got past the first chapter in anything you’ve written.

When I started writing, it was so bad I didn’t show it to anyone. Nevertheless, I persevered because I had that irrational quality called self-belief. When you start writing you tend to write a lot of exposition because you’re just trying to get a story onto the page. But this assumes that you have some idea what the story is. If you don’t, then perhaps you need to backup and ask yourself some questions.

What’s this story about? Who is the protagonist or lead character? How old are they? Are they male or female? Where did they come from? What were they doing before this point in the story? What sort of world do they live in?

If you can’t answer these basic questions, you can’t start your story. But assuming you’ve got this far, the next question is whether you have enough in your head to write a novel-length story? Have you ever written any short stories? Because maybe that’s what you’ve got.

When you’re starting out for the first time, you don’t know if you have enough. I once did an exercise in a writing class and later on tried to develop it into a story, only to find I couldn’t. But that was a valuable lesson, because now I tend to ‘workshop’ an idea until I’m convinced that there is a story in there. By ‘workshop’ I mean I do what-if scenarios and what I call ‘sketches’ in a notebook until it starts to come alive. That’s my approach and you have to find a method that works for you. Reiterating the first chapter is not an approach that’s going to move you forward if you have nothing to follow it with, but you already know that.

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