All About Chapters

In my super-duper knowledgeable experience as an author, one of the most common questions I hear are related to chapters. There are several different questions and problems that come up with this subject. In no particular order (or in order because I’m randomly OCD), I have listed everything you need to know about chapters.

  • How long should my chapter be? You’ve read a book before, am I right? Take a gander at said book and look for your answers. You may notice that not all chapters are the same length. *ding ding ding* Truth is, there is no rule to follow when it comes to length. As long as the chapter as a whole makes sense, it can be as long or as short as you want it. I’ve seen 1 page chapters before. It’s not common, but it’s possible.
  • How many chapters should my book be? The best part of being writer is that overall, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Do you want 100 chapters in a 200 page book? Go for it! Do you want chapters lasting 50 pages? Do it! BUT, here is my guideline to follow when creating chapters.
    • Think of your readers. Readers like to be able to take a break from reading and land on the beginning of a new chapter. If you make your chapters extremely long – and the plot seems to be dragging – you may want to consider breaking your chapters up a bit more.
    • What’s the point? Each chapter you write should have a reason for existence. If your entire chapter makes no progression and literally nothing happens, you may want to change it or delete it. So if you are set on having 30 chapters in your book but 5 of them don’t really have a point, go back and edit, or change your goal to 25 chapters. (We won’t judge you.)
    • You need to have chapters. If you are really dreading making chapters and decide to ex-nay, I’d ask you to reconsider. A book without chapters sounds like a nightmare; for you and the reader. It’s how you see the up’s an downs of the story. But more importantly, ending a chapter on a ‘cliff hanger’ makes the reader want to keep reading. You can’t really do cliffhangers on a book with no chapters.
  • Consider episodes in a show. We’re in the age of binge watching shows on Netflix or Hulu. (I know you do, don’t lie.) Why do we binge? Because each episode of the show ends in such a way that makes you want to keep watching. Especially with dramas (sitcoms not so much.) Think of how and why episodes end like they do and do the same for your chapters.
  • Highs and Lows. If there is one thing you take away from this, let it be this one. Each chapter you write needs to have highs and lows of drama. There is a possibility of emotionally draining a reader and you don’t want to do this. If you’re planning a really dark moment to happen in your chapter, (like a big character death), even it out with something not so heavy. Throw in something either funny or heart-warming. Also, if your chapter starts off with something dark, end the chapter on a light note; and vise versa.
  • Sub-Plots. It’s good to keep your main plot moving along with each chapter (because like I said earlier, if it’s not moving along, take it out.) As long as the main plot is moving along; maybe they found a key for a door for the main story, add something from a sub plot in as well. In every chapter. This will not only make your chapters grow, but add way more dynamics and complexity to your story and characters. The sub-plot can also serve as your ‘low’ moment in the chapter to contrast the heavier scene in the main plot.
  • Should I name my chapter? This is completely your choice. The way I see it, numbered chapter with no title gives the reader more mystery. They have no idea what is to be expected. If that’s what you want, I suggest no title. But naming your chapters can be helpful and set the reader up for what’s coming. Plus, it’s fun to think of mini titles to sum-up your chapter! Depending on the title, you can also add even more mystery and lure your reader in; with just the title.
  • Transition. When you’re trying to go from one chapter to the next, you might be wondering the best way to start the new one. You need them to have somewhat of connection to each other. Don’t go to one scene to another between chapters because it will confuse the hell out of the reader. You want to purposely end a chapter in the middle of a scene or dialogue (especially in fiction), but it should be continued in the next chapter, or take a image from the last sentence and use it somehow in the next one.
  • What should the chapter include?
    • A plot moving forward (or subplot).
    • A high AND low point
    • Dialogue
    • Chapter numbers and/or titles.

Hope this helps! Let me know any advice you might have about chapters! ##


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