Chapters

Question: How do you recommend dividing a novel into chapters? I'm trying to figure out how long my chapters should be, if they should revolve around a single scene, if my scenes have enough content to become a chapter, etc. Thanks!


Answer: I generally recommend placing chapter breaks after an event has reached its resolution and given the characters a new purpose that will propel them towards the next event. However, chapters can contain more than one event, if the events are brief.

The word scene is a little vague, since scenes can contain more than one event. You could, for instance, have an entire full-length story that consists of a single scene (though this is rare), but it will contain many events.

Of course, you don't want chapters to be too long either. A chapter should also be a good length for the reader to read in half an hour or less (so they can tell themselves, "I'll just read one more chapter before bed."). For adults, 5,000 words is not a bad limit. Naturally, chapters must be shorter in children's books. However, even adult novels will occasionally have a very short chapter, if that's what the story's needs dictate.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

chapters

by Bryanna
(california)

Question: What if a chapter feels rushed?

Answer: Your feelings should be a pretty good guide, though you can also ask others for a second, objective opinion.

If you feel the chapter is rushed, then perhaps you have to look at what you may be glossing over. The more important the event or events the chapter depicts, the more detail may be needed to convey its importance.

You could ask yourself questions such as...

* Would it add to the emotional push and pull to break a single, big event into a sequence of smaller events, creating a dramatic arc such as inciting event --> complication/conflict --> crisis/turning point --> resolution?

* Would it help to include other characters reactions to what is happening?

* Do you need to describe the action in more detail? Perhaps replace generalities with a more specific description.

* Have you included your POV character's reactions in terms of thoughts and feelings along with the action?

* Remember that, in addition to having your reader appreciate progress in your plot, you also want them to appreciate progress in your characters' relationships and inner conflicts. They need to know why an event is important - what it means and to whom it is meaningful.



Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

about my chapters

by alistair ashton
(huddersfield)

Question: I was wondering when writing my book what should every chapter in my book contain

Answer: Try thinking not so much about what each chapter should contain but where to put chapter breaks in the novel. Some writers write the entire story first and add the chapter breaks afterward.

That said, generally each chapter should contain one complete an event in the story (an event being an important change). You can have more than one event in a chapter, if the events are told in not too many pages. You want to put chapter breaks in places where you have a sense that one event has finished and the reader is now looking forward to what will happen next.

That "looking forward" is what will compel the reader to turn to the next chapter rather than put the book down.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero