Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chapter breaks

I'm thinking a lot about chapter breaks today, since I've been reworking them in my novel-in-progress.

Ideally I want to end a chapter on a cliffhanger, but a chapter also needs to have a feeling of completeness--the way a paragraph does, the way a scene does. There's a reason that certain scenes are grouped together to form a chapter. And so I hunt for those spots where I have both completeness (such as, when I'm about to shift to a new place or focus on a different character or subplot) and suspense (ending on a question, or a foreshadowing, or when something unexpected has just happened).

My last editor was very good at pointing out less-than-stellar chapter endings, and asking me to do more with them.

For this book, I'm realizing I want shorter chapters--I love short chapters anyway, as both a reader and a writer--and I now have many more chapters than I did yesterday.

We'll see if this work holds up tomorrow. That's the thing about revising: I usually can't tell if something works until I've stepped away from it and come back to it.


  1. I find chapter breaks tricky, as I don't write in chapters, only a long string of scenes. At the end I have to try to figure out where the best place for chapter breaks would be. Last book, after juggling and shifting and ending up with very uneven chapters, I just gave up and made every scene its own chapter.

    1. I start out writing in chapters, but that quickly disintegrates as the story takes off, and I end up writing a series of scenes as you do. But sometimes I see an obvious chapter break and note it as I write. Most of my chapters are broken in later drafts, though.