So, this week, I’ve decided to have a bit of a mini-series about how to write chapters.
That’s because one of my clients has this great story and an agent gave him some feedback about chapter length.
And that got me thinking about chapters. Here’s the big reveal…
Chapters Aren’t Tricky Beasts
Some writers are magically lucky and just intuitively know when a chapter ends and when a chapter begins and how they work in a novel.
If you aren’t one of those magically lucky writers, this blog post is for you.
A chapter has a couple roles.
- They let the reader have a hot moment to themselves.
Seriously a lot of stuff has just gone done in your novel and the reader needs a moment to pause, to inhale, to process everything that just happened.
- They tell the reader that there is a change coming.
The fancy name for change is a transition. It just means, “Hey. We’re going to a new place or meeting someone new. Or maybe it’s act two now. Let’s have a moment together.”
A lot of people get super hung up on how long a chapter should be. Chapters are key elements in creating the pace of the story.
The general rule: Short chapters increase the pace. Long chapters tend to decrease the pace.
How does this happen?
Short chapters tend to be about action scenes. Longer chapters tend to be about big transitions and emotional and plot developments. That’s not always true, but it usually is.
The chapter should be as long as it’s meant to be. The shorter the chapter, the more resonance it becomes and that’s because the pause in between the chapters makes the reader’s brain go, “Ah. Wow. This one thing just happened. Whoa. I am pausing and thinking about that one thing.” Rather than pausing and thinking about a ton of things.
Some people think that chapters should all have a consistent length.
Those people are wrong. I know! I know! I rarely say that. But they are.
Consistent lengths is a lovely thing if your reader likes consistency and the calming expectation of knowing every chapter is going to be twelve pages.
But consistent chapter lengths means that you, the author, are restricting yourself. You can’t use chapters to play with pace or emotional resonance. You are tying yourself up in a non-sexy way. We need all the tools we can have. Don’t limit yourself.
In our podcast tomorrow, we’ll be talking about all the things chapter titles can do for you and your readers. Sexy, right? You want to work those chapters. And on Wednesday, we’ll be talking about how to start and end your chapters and what they can do for you.
I hope you’ll stick around!
If you like what you read, please heart it below or share it, it means the world to this writer. x0- Carrie