I am an author and potter based in East London. My novel The Doll Factory is out now, about a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world forever. It is a story of painting, collecting, love, obsession and possession. It is a Sunday Times bestseller, a Radio 2 Book Club pick, and a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. It has also been optioned for a TV series. To hear more about how I came to write the book, I was interviewed in the Sunday Times.
I have been chosen to judge the Pitch Your Novel on Twitter Competition where you can win a a week-long writing retreat in one of three holiday cottages feedback – more details below and here.
First, I’d like to share my five tips on writing that all-important first chapter:
- This feels like obvious advice, but I’ve often begun stories too early (which results in a lot of unimportant background information before anything happens) or too late (which results in too much backstory, pulling the reader out of the action). Think about your inciting incident, your mystery, your problem that needs to be solved, and when is the best time to introduce it.
- I like to have my characters do something straight away; any details about their personal relationships or history or appearance can be introduced more subtly. I see my first chapter as a short story without a complete resolution. I want something satisfying and complete to have happened but I also want to have left questions unanswered. That said, the actual events narrated don’t need to be drastic.
- I’m sure there are plenty of examples where a brilliant book doesn’t introduce the protagonist within the first chapter but I like to begin my stories and novels with the focus on the protagonist. Anchor us in their lives; make us care about them, understand them, and want to spend a whole novel in their company. What do they see or notice, and what does this show us about them?
- What books have hooked you immediately and why? Perhaps it’s a striking voice, perhaps it’s a particular hook, perhaps it’s an interesting character. I often reread books I’ve loved to try and unpick how a writer has done it.
- Nothing is perfect the first time. I put my writing through more drafts than I can count, and each time I find another layer and fix something I didn’t notice the time before. Give it to someone else to read and think about their feedback. I try and allow my first draft to be bad, knowing I can improve it.
(c) Elizabeth Macneal
About The Doll Factory:
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the intoxicating story of a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world for ever.
London. 1850. The greatest spectacle the city has ever seen is being built in Hyde Park, and among the crowd watching two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.
When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.
But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .
‘A sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art and obsession’ – Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
Order your copy online here.
Win a Writing Rretreat and Feedback from Elizabeth Macneal
Watch the video here: https://www.holidaycottages.co.uk/writers-retreat/
Tweet from Elizabeth Macneal: https://twitter.com/esmacneal/status/1201882264487047168
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