Category Archives: Fiction

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.

More info →
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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.

More info →
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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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.

New Novelist: 4 Tips To Help You Avoid Fiction’s Common Pitfalls

New Novelist: 4 Tips To Help You Avoid Fiction’s Common Pitfalls

You’re a new novelist, writing your first book. Kudos to you. Yes, writing a novel can be intimidating, so avoid thinking about all the words you need to write.

Focus only on the words you’ll write today. Do that tomorrow as well — do it every day. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re making progress.

You’re a new novelist: map the terrain

We’ve talked about a novel’s milestones. Be aware that you must hit them:

The setup (at the 25 per cent point of the novel);

The midpoint, where everything changes, at 50 per cent;

The OOPS milestone: the kick in the pants. Think of it as a sharp jolt, or the dark moment. It occurs at the 80 per cent point.

The climax: the BIG scene, in which the hero does battle for what he wants. Alternatively (in mysteries for example), the big reveal — the sleuth unmasks the killer. You should hit this at the 90 per cent point.

Read the complete article. It’s vital that you understand the terrain of your novel.

Now let’s look at the tips.

1. Keep going, even if you get a “better idea” for a new novel

Everyone gets ideas. Writing begets ideas.

Unfortunately an idea for a new novel can seem like a solution when you’ve hit a challenging scene, or think your novel’s running off the rails. It’s tempting to trash your current novel and begin something new.

Your idea is a mirage. Write it on a sticky note, and look at it tomorrow. It’s doubtful that it will look as wonderful tomorrow as it does today.

Ideas are nothing in themselves. No single idea can support a complete novel. Create a Collection for new ideas in your novel’s bullet journal, and get back to writing.

2. Recognize “the wall” and bulldoze through it

Every novel hits the wall sooner or later.

Suddenly you hate your novel. You want your characters dead. You’re certain that your plot is the biggest load of trash any author has ever tried to foist onto an unsuspecting public…

This feeling of hatred is another mirage. Just like the “better idea” mirage, it’s not real. My walls usually loom up at around 25,000 words. I’ve no idea why.

From Writing A Novel You Hate: 3 Tips To Help You To Keep Writing:

When you hit the wall, you’ll know it. It’s a deep, visceral dislike for your book. As we’ve said, it’s not a bad novel just because you hate it at this moment in time.

Keep writing, even if it takes you an hour to produce a paragraph. Read through what you’ve written, and write.

Avoid the thought that: “I just need to wait for inspiration”. Trust me, when you hit the wall, inspiration won’t come. You’ve got to go through it, so be brave. Grit your teeth if you must, but write anyway.

3. Make your fiction real by using your senses

Where are you?

Look around for a moment. Perhaps you’re in a coffee shop. What can you see, smell, hear, touch?

Practice grounding yourself in this way several times a day, so that you can do the same in your fiction. You make your fiction real by putting the reader into your novel, right into the action, via his senses.

4. Yes, you really do need a “story question”

I was chatting with a new novelist the other week. He’d lost faith in his story question, and want to know whether he really needed one? He’s writing a science fiction space opera, and wanted to get on with the next galactic battle in the novel.

Yes, you do need a story question. 🙂

No matter how episodic your tale, something keeps your main character going, and that’s the story question. You’ve planted this question (we hope) sometime in the setup phase — the first 25% of your novel.

Maybe your character’s beset by vampires, or accused of murder, or wants something desperately. Maybe it’s a coming of age story, and your character’s troubles and travails help him to grow up.

Your character has goals. Aways. He must achieve those goals or die, literally, or metaphorically.

My new novelist friend wasn’t aware of the suspense devices you can use to bring the story question alive — both for you, and for your readers.

In this article, I offered some suggestions for devices, like the ticking clock, you can use to create suspense in your fiction:

… let’s say you’re writing a thriller, and a child goes missing. Every minute counts — the longer a child remains missing the less chance there is that the child will be found alive.

Your main character is a detective. You could start your chapters: Missing Three Hours… Missing Five Hours, etc.

In the “missing child” story, your story question might not concern the child at all. Maybe your main character is a female detective. Everything’s gone wrong for her. She wants to quit. The story question, which you might never state explicitly, is: will she overcome all her challenges and stay in her job?

As long as you know what the story question is, you’re good. It’s common for the story question to change several times. When it does, go back and revise, so that the your question fits seamlessly into your novel.

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
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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 →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

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.