I amended some of my chapters so that they're more intriguing and engaging for my readers. But there's one particular chapter in which one of my beta-readers stated, "It's intriguing, but it doesn't blow me away like the first two chapters did,"

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    Perhaps the expectations set by the first 2 chapters are not met in the third chapter. This could be a serious problem or a matter of taste. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 11:59
  • Did they tell you anything beyond it being underwhelming? Beta-Readers need to tell you why something feels off, not just they don't enjoy it. Can you sum up what these three chapters are intended to show? What's the purpose of each. It's hard to help when we have a Beta-Reader's opinion. Perhaps the beta just doesn't find the chapter his cup of tea. Also this is specifically one reader... what are others saying?
    – hszmv
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 14:13
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    fwiw I rarely feel "blown away" when reading any book. Maybe 5 instances in my life have I felt this way after reading a chapter. How much reading does your friend do?
    – user91988
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:31
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    Only the best writers, and only at the height of their careers, write a book where every chapter is mind blowing. You kind of have to be good, or get lucky or have a great subject just to write a single book that's mind blowing. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 17:45

3 Answers 3


Not every chapter needs to blow the reader away

No, not every chapter needs to blow the reader away, and you shouldn't be trying to. There are multiple reasons that this isn't something you should try to do. Also, this probably isn't really the issue with that chapter.

Why you don't want to do this

First of all, you can't. Trying to blow the reader away with every chapter, page, and paragraph you write will lead to you chasing perfection and never thinking your work is done. No one can write like that and believing that you need to will harm your work.

Second, it is exhausting to read a book that is written like that. If every chapter presents some new exciting twist or development you don't give the reader (or your characters) a chance to process things.

Finally, it will make your work seem one-paced. Sure it might make your book a page turner, edge of your seat epic. But it is far more likely to make it feel frantic and rushed. Think of the books you love, not every chapter is absolutely gripping. The tension of the book waxes and wanes as the author builds toward mini-climaxes then relaxes again.

Why that probably isn't your issue

Most books start with a "blow you away" opening chapter or two. That's writing 101, get their attention right from the start. You beta-readers are probably indicating that the transition or drop off from your introduction is too stark. Something about that third chapter was a letdown. You should get more feedback and push for details about what felt wrong about it.

I am imagining a situation where you had a great idea for a book opening and then your third chapter is the start of your narrative proper. Rather than worrying about blowing the reader away, look at why the third chapter doesn't follow the expectations you have given the reader based on the first two. You may need to adjust your opening to fit better with your overall narrative.


Your beta reader feels the chapter isn't pulling its weight.

It's not about being blown away, it's about a chapter having a purpose and engaging the reader.

Because your reader has put it in these terms, my guess is that the other chapters also didn't really engage as part of a larger story. They had elements that the reader enjoyed a lot but didn't connect to the rest. Perhaps the first two chapters connected to the others but this last one doesn't. Or maybe it's a sign that your novel is all flash.

Either way, something isn't working. It would be nice if your reader could tell you exactly what the problem is, but s/he may not consciously know. "It's intriguing, but it doesn't blow me away" means it has potential but it's somehow not fitting in.

What you want is your reader to be blown away by the novel as a whole. The chapters work with each other towards this goal. While each individual chapter needs to be strong and purposeful, it's not a chapter's job to always blow the reader away.

Be sure to ask your other beta readers. This might be the preference of one person. But if the others say something similar, it's a sign.


It is a matter of uniformity.

So, in your case, yes: every chapter should "blow the reader away".

Chapters are parts of a bigger work where there is an expectation of both continuity of scope and uniformity of perception. Continuity of scope implies that your readers may rightfully expect to continue reading about the same overall topic, or they may expect you to stick to the promised agenda. Uniformity of perception is that they continue to engage with your writing as long as they can draw a uniform range of emotions and intensity out of it.

Providing two mind-blowing chapters at the start sets an implicit contract between you and the reader that the continuation will be just as engaging. Lacking to deliver on such contract slows down the pace, creates detachment, and eventually abandonment.

If you don't think you can further deliver mind-blowing writing, then you may want to consider revising the initial premise. Alternatively, chop the dragging parts, edit them, shorten them, set them aside as a source of inspiration but not-yet-fit-for-purpose text.

The goal of a lengthy work is to complete the race, not to sprint at the beginning.

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    Your last line is going to my quote collection ASAP. Have some virtual internet points, good NofP. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 14:43

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