Tag Archives: how to write

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

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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.

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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

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

If You Want To Write A Novel But Can’t Get Started: 3 Tips

If You Want To Write A Novel But Can’t Get Started: 3 Tips

Last week I chatted with a new author who told me that she’d always wanted to write a novel. “It’s been my dream for 20 years,” she said. “I always thought I’d write, but something’s holding me back. I don’t know what it is… my children have left home, so I can’t tell myself that I don’t have time any more.”

Desperation’s the key for many authors. They want to write, and don’t write. Then something tips them over the edge. One fine day they decide that they’ll start writing now. And they do.

Let’s make today the day YOU start.

You CAN write a novel, even without an idea in your head

Oddly enough, “ideas” are a challenge for many authors. They either have too many ideas, and can’t pick one, or they “can’t think of an idea.”

My new author friend was in the latter group. “I can’t come up with a great idea,” she told me. “Every idea I come up with is stupid.”

Ideas are over-rated. It’s easy to come up with ideas. You can do it — challenge yourself to come up with ten ideas in ten minutes. You’ll do it, even if you loudly proclaim that you can’t think of an idea.

Here’s the thing. A novel requires more than an idea. It needs thousands of ideas. Start writing, and you’ll come up with dozens of ideas in a single session.

These three tips will help you to get started.

1. Write 100 words about someone’s secret

Fiction is people, and people are endlessly fascinating.

Do you have a secret? We all have a secret we’d hate to see splattered all over the Internet, or on the front page of a newspaper.

You can write 100 words about any secret: your secret, your mother’s secret, a friend’s secret… or an imaginary character’s secret.

Sit down at your computer now, and start writing.

STOP when you’ve written 100 words.

Why stop? Because you’re training yourself to write on demand. Writers write, just like bakers bake and doctors see their patients. It’s no big deal — your aim is to demystify the act of writing. So stop when you’ve written your 100 words. 🙂

2. Write 200 words about your favorite movie or book character

Write whatever comes to mind about your favorite.

Don’t judge your words — when a word pops into your head, write it down. That’s what writers do — they think on the computer screen. Then they knock their thoughts (words) into shape — again, on the computer screen.

(Or on paper — whatever floats your boat.)

Want more exercises? Here you go. You’ll find 70 writing exercises in my ebook, Top 70 Writing Tips: Write More, Improve Your Writing, And Make More Money. You can do many of the exercises over and over again.

You may be shocked that I occasionally do the exercises too. Writing exercises are an excellent way to kickstart your creativity whenever you feel stale, or “not in the mood” to write.

3. Write for ten minutes a day, every day

This tip is the biggie.

Schedule ten minutes of writing on your novel, every day. Write whatever comes. Write character descriptions, character names, a scene… Write. For ten minutes. Then stop.

Sooner or later, your confidence will be such that you won’t need to force yourself to your computer. You’ll leap out of bed in the morning, and will be impatient to write.

Write a novel: write every day… Don’t worry about writing when you’re not writing

Sadly, there’s nothing glamorous about the writing life. Writers sit down and write, every day. Or every week day.

When they’re not writing, they live their life.

To start to write a novel, and finish it, do the exercises.

Start now.

Angela Booth’s Top 70 Writing Tips: Write More, Improve Your Writing, And Make More Money

Angela Booth’s Top 70 Writing Tips: Write More, Improve Your Writing, And Make More Money

$5.99
Author:
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing process

What's holding you back from the writing career of your dreams? If you want to write more, sell more, and have more fun writing... it's easier than you can imagine. Discover the secret to writing every day, and becoming a prolific writer.

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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.

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips

How To Begin Your Novel Without Going Crazy: 3 Tips
Not sure how to start your novel? Perhaps you’re like my students, who procrastinate on their novels’ beginnings. I wrote this article for my students. If you feel that your novel’s beginning isn’t what it should be, I hope that these tips will help you too.

Your novel: who wants what, and why?

I’m a confirmed pantser; that is, someone who starts a novel as the mood takes them. I just start writing. However, I keep three things in mind:

  • Who is this person I’m writing about?
  • What does he or she WANT, and …
  • WHY does he or she want it?

Once you’ve settled on those three things you’re well underway, but you’ve still got a major nuisance… how will you begin your novel?

These tips will help.

1. Start after the beginning: start anywhere you like

Writing the first few pages of your novel is intimidating. I know that if I read page one of a novel while I’m browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon, and hate the first page, that’s all I’ll read.

You need to hook your reader on page one.

How do you do that?

Trust me, you’ll figure it out, but usually not until you’re well under way with your novel.

For years, I hated starting a new novel because of what I called the Page One Dilemma. Should I start right in the middle of the action (always a good thing) leaving explanations of who the characters were, and what they wanted until later, or should I:

  • Create atmosphere first;
  • Start with dialogue;
  • Make a foreshadowing statement…

I’d play around with beginnings day after day, until I got sick of myself and kept writing, figuring that I’d fix the beginning once I knew more about the novel I was writing.

Finally, I decided that any novel’s beginning was immaterial — all I had to do was BEGIN writing, and keep going. Sooner or later I’d figure out the best beginning.

And I always do. You will, too. 🙂

2. Frame your novel with a prologue

Prologues have gone out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid them.

I think of a prologue as splashing something vivid onto the page. I may discard the prologue completely later, or I may incorporate it into the body of the novel somewhere, but a prologue gets you started with a bang.

Consider how “prologues” are used when you’re watching a movie, or a TV episode. Law & Order for example always starts with someone’s murder, or serious injury. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, you might begin with the murder too.

Think of your prologue as:

  • Setting the mood of your novel;
  • Foreshadowing a major event in the novel; and most importantly…
  • As something you write casually, which you may or may not use in the novel.

3. Writing the ending of your novel FIRST

I love writing endings first, because I know that the ending will change. So you can write the ending easily enough; there’s no pressure.

However, once you’ve written the ending, you’ll find that you’re on fire to start your novel. And you’ll get started, without thinking about it, because the ending is “done.”

Yes, this is a psychological trick you play on yourself, but it’s a good one, and it usually works.

Try this simple strategy if you’re finding that starting your novel is a huge challenge.

Want more inspiration? Check out our current special offerings.

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3. Content Witchery And Magic

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Happy writing. 🙂

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.

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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 →
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.