how to write an engaging first chapter

Five live one hour Zoom workshops

This course is ideal for people who want to work on their novel-writing craft as well as those who want to compare their own first chapter draft with a range of published works.

Group size: 8 people max

Starts – Mon 22nd Nov (7.30-8.30pm)

Ends – Mon 20th Dec (7.30-8.30pm)

Cost – £40 (Text 07943 068033 if you need my bank details)

On this course we will read and discuss four first chapters from best-selling, critically-acclaimed novels. During our discussions and written exercises, we’ll try to work out why they are successful, covering aspects such as originality, figurative language, chronology, the author’s voice, perspective, setting, empathy, scene-creation and how to capture and hold the reader’s attention.

Intended Outcomes

To inspire new ideas for novels

To try out existing ideas for novels on a well-informed, supportive group

To analyse good writing practice and learn from successful novelists

To learn what agents and publishers are looking for when they read novel proposals

To reflect on your own writing practice to ensure your writing is as good as it can be

Over the five weeks, you will share three short pieces of 100- 200 words on which you will receive feedback.

After Christmas I will run a follow up course during which participants will have the opportunity to share and discuss the chapters in their entirity.

Here are the four chapters which we will be discussing on the course. You will also need to choose a first chapter of a published book to use as a comparison.

If you click on the book title, you will be taken to the book on Amazon and will be able to use the ‘look inside’ function to read the opening chapter (or at least the first part of it).

Week One: Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Week Two: The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

Week Three: The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

Week Four: Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell

Week Five: Own choice (be ready to read a first paragraph of book you have enjoyed and say why you think it’s a successful opening to a novel).

(NB. These book choices may change if the novels stop being available on Amazon – this is unlikely though).

If you have any questions or would like to book a place on the course, please email me at:

Story Planning Course – 2020


Mai is so welcoming and, as new writer venturing into the unknown, everyone is reassuring, encouraging and also really constructive.

Jacqui Martin

I joined the writers’ group as a way to improve my skills. I stayed because the encouragement is fantastic. It has inspired a lot of new ideas and the people are just lovely.

Megan Musgrove

I’ve been to a few of Mai’s writing events and I really appreciate her infectious enthusiasm and her straightforward, clear advice.

Amoghavajra Mackay

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