Step 1 Designing the First Chapter of a Novel

Step 1 Designing the First Chapter of a Novel

What You Need to Know About Your Novel Before You Begin Writing.

I told all of you I would be using my first novel to help teach this beginner’s writing course to you. Many people in my writer’s groups have asked established writers, “how do I start my novel?” This seems to be a troubling question for many.

I will go into what I was thinking as I wrote the first chapter.

Here is what I knew about Gunny Mac Private Detective before I started writing.


  • I knew the genre…sort of a hard-boiled private detective series.

  • I knew my protagonists name, Gunny Mac.

  • I wanted to write about the 1940s and in an exotic setting.

  • I wanted to pattern my style of writing like Raymond Chandler.

  • I wanted Gunny Mac to have  some side kicks on his journey as a private eye.

  • I knew as a new writer I should write about my passion…World War Two and the United States Marine Corps.

  • I knew I wanted a Jesuit priest in my story and a dog.

  • I knew I had to have people seeking redemption. We all need redemption.

As you can tell I had somewhat of an idea started but how could I find a story in all this? So I started researching the beginning of WW Two in 1942. I started researching Hawaii and Guadalcanal. We were at a desperate crossroads  and I wanted to see if there was a story somewhere during this time period. After several hours of research I stumbled onto something interesting. President Roosevelt felt the First Marine Division was going to lose Guadalcanal and Hawaii invaded. Actually got my hands on the original 500 page report.

Then I found out he planned on collecting and burning all the American money in Hawaii and replacing it with bills with the word Hawaii on the back of each bill so the Japanese could not use the money to finance their war operations.

Bingo! I had my plot. I surmised if this was the case how many people would attempt to steal this money that was going to be destroyed…was it actually stealing money… that was going to be destroyed? No victim!

My next step…developing my Premise and Concept. 

Concept: What would happen if President Roosevelt collected and burned all the money in Hawaii to keep the Japanese from getting it?

Premise: What would happen if four badly wounded veterans are the only ones able to stop, corrupt officials and gangsters from stealing the money?

Wow! I have a possible great novel!

Till the next post!


Author, teacher, coach