Fiction Writing Basics: How To Make Sense Of Chapters

Fiction Writing Basics: How To Make Sense Of Chapters

When you’re new to fiction writing, you worry. One of the things you worry about are chapters.

Beginning authors send me questions like:

  • What’s a “chapter”?
  • How long/ short is a chapter?
  • How do you know when you’ve written one?

By the way, you might find this article useful, Fiction Writing Basics: Scenes, Narrative and Chapters if you’re not sure about scenes, etc.

In fiction writing, you’re the boss — take charge of chapters

When you’re writing your fiction, you’re in charge, and a chapter’s length is an arbitrary decision which you make, and you can make it at any time.

There aren’t any “chapter police.” 🙂

Years ago I read a mystery with a chapter consisting of ONE word. From memory, it was one of Don Westlake’s mysteries. The chapter was either at the midpoint twist, or at the “oops” milestone: the 80 per cent point of the novel.

I remember being startled by the device, but in that novel, it made perfect sense; and it worked.

Let’s look at why you might decide to combine a bunch of scenes into a chapter.

Reasons to create a chapter

The best reason is “because I need one.” That is, you instinctively feel that you should have a chapter here, and here, and here… Your intuition is usually a good guide to what a novel needs.

Let’s look at some additional reasons.

1. Chapters provide an entertaining structure so that readers will enjoy your novel

You build your novel so that it’s satisfying to readers. Therefore, certain things must happen in certain parts of your novel so that readers will enjoy your book.

For example, in the first third of the novel, you’re setting up your characters and plot for payoffs later. So, it’s a good idea to corral those scenes into chapters; it makes for a better reading experience, and a better writing experience.

My scenes tend to average from 1500 to 2,000 words. In several of my mystery series, I have three scenes per chapter, and I aim to end the Setup phase of the novel at the end of chapter three.

That said, it depends on the novel — the Setup might end at the end of chapter two, or the end of chapter six.

2. You may create chapters in service of your plot

Psychological thrillers seem to be all the rage over the past few years, after the success of Gone Girl. In novels of this type, you’ll often see chapters which focus on a range of dates, and/or which are narrated by one of the main characters alternating with another.

For example, let’s say that your thriller’s main characters are: Betty, Tom and Jim. In chapter one, Betty and Jim are in place to murder Tom, Betty’s husband. Betty narrates the chapter.

Chapter two is narrated by Tom, who survived the murder attempt. Then the novel goes back in time: “Three years earlier…” Your three main characters alternate in narrating chapters. Readers discover why Betty and Jim want to murder Tom, and how Tom escapes.

Novels with alternating points of view are fun to write, and they work well in many different genres.

Keep in mind that when you’re creating chapters, your aim is always to surprise the reader, and involve him emotionally, so that he keeps reading.

3. After your first draft, in revision, you might create chapters to corral your plot

I number my scenes when I’m writing fiction. A few years ago I suddenly realized that I’d got to scene 40 of a novel, and hadn’t created any chapters.

Did I need chapters? I decided that I didn’t and kept writing.

However, in revision, I soon found that I needed the structure that chapters provide, so that I could set up additional open loops, and their payoffs. (Read this article for more on open loops.) So I created some chapters.

Fiction writing: you’ll develop confidence with chapters over time

You learn to write fiction by writing lots of fiction. Over time, you’ll develop skill and confidence with chapters. You’ll also experiment with unique ways of telling your stories, and you’ll use scenes and chapters to do that.

Have fun. 🙂

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

More info →
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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

3 Time Management Tips: Writing When You Have No Time

3 Time Management Tips: Writing When You Have No Time

Time management is challenging for writers because you can’t manage your time, per se. Everyone has the same 24 hours. You can only manage yourself.

Let’s say that you want to become a successful indie author — but you know that writing books takes time. Depressed yet? That’s OK, because not only do most people have more time than they imagine, they can achieve more, no matter how limited their time.

However, you need to make a decision.

A time management truth: you will NEVER have enough time

It’s true, sadly. Even full-time writers moan that they have “no time.” Your life will eat your writing time if you allow it.

You have a decision to make: how badly do you want to write? If writing is important to you, your writing comes first. Schedule your writing time, then rejig everything else to fit.

Let’s look at our time management tips for authors who are convinced that they have no time.

1. Kill the myths about writing which are holding you back

Here’s the thing. Myths about writing abound. Many are completely incorrect; others are only partially incorrect. Few are true — and even the myths which are true are only true for some authors.

Which myths are holding you back? You may not know, because a myth can be completely unconscious, and nevertheless control your writing.

Myths include:

  • Fast writing is bad writing. You can’t write a book in 24 hours;
  • If your book doesn’t sell immediately, it will never sell;
  • You can’t write 3,000 words in an hour…

There are as many myths as there are writers.

My point: you believe things which are untrue for you, and you’re unconscious of your harmful beliefs.

Try this exercise.

Write this phrase in a new computer file: “The myths about writing which are holding me back include…”

Wait for ideas to come to you. You’ll be shocked at the notions you have which cripple your ability to achieve your writing goals.

Of course, many of your personal myths involve notions about what YOU need to write: “an hour of uninterrupted time”, etc.

2. Dictate your words, it’s faster

Dictation is faster than writing, especially once you get used to it. In the beginning, you’ll feel uncomfortable — persist.

Modern computers include voice recognition software. Read the Help files for your machine, and start talking.

Nuance produces Dragon voice recognition software; it’s worth the expense if you’re making money from your words.

I gave you some tips on how to make dictation work for you here.

3. Adjust your preferences, because everything is a preference

Now for a little Zen. 🙂

Everything you want, or don’t want, is a preference.

If you can become consciously aware of your preferences, and realize that they’re only preferences, you’ll write more, no matter how little time you have.

From Zen Thinking:

Without having a preference of any sort, with no opinion for or against, you become free.

Let’s look at some common preferences.

  • You might prefer to be able to quit work, and become a full-time writer. However, currently you need a day job;
  • If only you could sell 500 books a day, you muse… but most days, you only sell one or two. (You may need to steal a little writing time so that you can advertise more);
  • Perhaps you wish that your partner and children would do more of the household chores. That’s a preference. Tell them that your preferences have changed, and that you’ve drawn up a list of chores for each of them so that you have more time to write.

Time management: you always have more time than you imagine you do

Use our tips to squirrel away more time for your writing — and have fun while you do it. 🙂

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing

You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day?

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Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Genre: Writing

Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.

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Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Fiction: 3 Quick Tips To Write A Novel In A Month

Fiction: 3 Quick Tips To Write A Novel In A Month

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

An author asks: “Can you write fiction more quickly than nonfiction?” It’s a good question. The answer? Yes, because when you’re writing fiction, there’s less research involved.

Of course, historical fiction requires research, but authors of historicals are usually grounded in their period. For these authors, research isn’t work; it’s fun.

Fiction is fun to write, when you develop a fiction mind state

Want to learn to write novels FAST?

Writing fiction requires:

  1. An understanding of the components of fiction; how elements like character, plot, setting, and dialogue combine in your novel;
  2. A certain mind state — a state of flow, where the author is in the story. You need to imagine yourself into the skin of your story characters, so in many ways, writing fiction has more to do with acting, than writing.

Let’s look at some tips to help you to write a novel in a month.

For more help, check out Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days.

1. Create a plan: how many words?

Start by deciding how many words you’ll write over the month. Authors in NaNoWriMo write 50,000 words, which is around 1620 words a day, for 31 days.

Next, you’ll need at least one character, and a dire situation in which to place your character. Some authors can start writing without anything — they discover their main character while they’re writing.

2. SIT (or stand if you like) at your desk every day

Life happens. You want to write, but something comes up.

Expect this to happen — that three family members will come down with the flu, or that people will come to stay… Many writers write first thing in the morning. Then the day can go to heck, but they’ve got their writing done.

Schedule your writing time outside normal working and family hours if you can.

3. Relax, and day dream to bring your story to life

Hours can pass when you’re writing, because you get into a mind state which opens you to your imagination.

Writers use different methods to achieve the mind state. I like to think about my current novel when I’m falling asleep at night, and the first thing in the morning. When a scene pops into my mind, I scrawl a few sentences onto an index card.

You may want to play music, or burn a candle… Do whatever works for you, so that you’re completely relaxed and can day dream your story to life.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days is available now.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing

How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.

More info →
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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.