As most of you know chapters are sections we use to divide a book into more readable parts. Every chapter is going to be different from the next, but every chapter should have a few essential parts.
- Beginning, middle, and end.
- At least one major plot point.
- A change in emotion or urgency.
Keep in mind that chapters are flexible. They can be as short or as long as you need them to be and can contain whatever information you want or need in them.
Outlining and creating chapters doesn’t seem difficult when you break it down like this, but once you start the outlining process it becomes harder. One of the most difficult tasks I’ve found is trying to find the best plot arrangement for chapters. There are many, many different ways to arrange your chapters. The endless possibilities make it hard to come up with an arrangement that works best.
Here’s my tip to make it a little easier: Follow your gut. Do what you think is the best and remember it can be changed later!
There’s some debate whether you should create your chapter before or after you write your first draft. It truly depends on the writer, but I would suggest giving both a try. You won’t know what works best for you until you try different options.
There is another option as well; creating the chapters as you go. This use to be my process and I will tell you this: if you do it right it can work out great. If you keep track of your chapters in your outline as you go and review the chapter before moving on, then it can be the right process for you. However, if not done correctly it can leave you with mess of half baked chapters and weak transitions.
It may not seem important, but transitions can mean the difference between a reader putting your book down for the night or forcing them to pull an all night to finish the book. Here are some tips for creating strong transitions:
– having a strong emotion present will help motivate the reader to keep reading.
– having a question, twist, choice, or something unknown present can coax your reader to read the next chapter.
– sometimes a huge reveal works for a transition as well. “Tim, I’m not your father.” This suspense will push the reader to read ‘just one more chapter’.
– don’t force the transition. If it’s not a good place for a transition, then find a different place. Readers can tell when you’re forcing the transition and it comes off as trick and can disappoint the reader.
– sometimes the smallest choices can create the best chapter transitions.
For example: early on in my work in progress my character has to decide whether to travel with another character (who has saved her life twice, but is an assassin whom she barely knows and doesn’t trust) or to try and make it on her own. The chapter transition is when the other character asks my main character is she’s coming with him or not. The chapter ends and the next one begins with her decision.
It’s a small decision but can have huge consequences. Sometimes those are the best places to put your translations. Not every chapter transition needs to during high emotional scenes.
– Don’t make every chapter transition similar. It will become predictable and boring for the reader.
Chapters are extremely important for any novel, which means they can be extremely difficult to get right. It can be infuriating at times when you can’t figure out the best way to arrange your chapter, but don’t forget you can ask for help. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can be the best help you can get.
Trust your instincts. you know what’s best for your novel!
Thank you for reading,
– Lalia LaRose