The best advice I ever read about first chapters was “re-write it.”
(The theory behind this advice is that the author is thinking her way through the facts of her characters and story when she first writes Chapter One., so it is usually crap.)
I did that. Scrapped chapter One, and started with the original chapter 2. (But I wasn't so daft that I didn't keep a copy on my hard drive and a memory stick, just in case!)
Other advice is Start where the conflict begins, and include action. Don’t go into detail about characters that are never mentioned again. Ensure there is a flavour of the genre and a sense of setting and period.
So I removed all the exposition, and gave tantalising clues about future action. But somehow I never really loved that second version of my story.
Months later I decided I wanted the original first chapter back again to give a real feel for what was happening in the book. So I got out the original Chapter One, pared it down to the bone and added some character conflict between Matho and Harry to the main conflict because I know the characters so much better now after two years writing and re-writing.
Suddenly sentences started flowing together in a way they never had before. Three bald sentences collapsed down into one graceful sentence and I thought I was really getting somewhere. Since it's a story with more than one viewpoint character, I decided to give my second protagonist, Meg, space in chapter one. After all, she's a large part of the conflict.
But now I have a fairly long first chapter. How long is too long? Where should I make the break? But at least the conflict is set up, and there are clues that my two main protagonists are destinied to clash head-on before too long.