Tag Archives: Write a novel

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 →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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.

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 →
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.

Fiction Writing: 3 Ways To Find Novel-Worthy Ideas

Fiction Writing: 3 Ways To Find Novel-Worthy Ideas

Hunting for ideas for your fiction writing? Finding novel-worthy ideas can be challenging.

You find a brilliant idea today. Then you look at it tomorrow, and wonder what you were thinking. The idea has died for you.

So, how do you find ideas for fiction writing which are worth exploring in 50,000 or more words?

Start by watching for what fascinates you.

Fiction writing: ideas from things that fascinate you

Not only do you want “great” ideas, you want to find ideas which will hold your interest. So, watch for things which grab your attention. If something holds your attention for more than an hour or two, there might be an idea hiding in it somewhere.

I read a lot of nonfiction to help me with my fiction. A month ago, I read a biography which described an event which made me go… “hmmmm….” After doing a little more research, I found that the event had never (to my knowledge) been covered in fiction.

This idea may well turn into a series of novels in a few months, because I haven’t lost interest in the event, and find myself thinking about it several times a day.

Now let’s look at some quick tips for finding novel-worthy ideas.

1. Read the news: who’s doing what? Why? Where?

Global and national news is depressing. Murder, mayhem, misery, and politics… For me, it’s also useless as a source of ideas.

However, if you write thrillers, crime fiction or adventure novels (or even fantasy) you might find the headlines fascinating for your next “snatched from the headlines” idea.

I prefer local news for idea exploration, because (generally speaking) it’s more relatable. Also useful to me: magazines which cover psychology and science.

When you find yourself reading a news article, and looking for more information, ask yourself: who? and why? You may find an idea. Be sure to keep the information you’ve gathered. And if you find yourself thinking of the news story a week from now, hunt for a potential character, and a story question in your idea.

2. Nonfiction can be a wonderful source of ideas

Over the years, I’ve collected my own reference library which I should browse for ideas more than I do. Frankly, I’m scared that I’ll find ideas which intrigue me so much that I’m forced to revise my current publishing program.

Explore your local library. I’ve found novel-worthy ideas in recipe books, history books, autobiographies and biographies… If you find a book which captures your attention, either make notes from it immediately, or check it out of the library. (If a book is truly useful, buy your own copy.)

3. You may find novel-worthy ideas in fiction

I’m not suggesting that you plagiarize a recent or past bestseller. However, every genre has tropes, which readers love.

In mysteries, common tropes include:

  • The closed room mystery;
  • A mysterious book, letter, or confession;
  • Strange case: the primary suspect who couldn’t have done it because… (but yes, he did it, in a very clever way)

Fiction writing from your life: can you fictionalize real life events?

I’ve had many questions about this over the years. My answer is usually: find something else to write about.

Here’s why:

  • You may get stuck on what “really happened” and forget to add drama and suspense (I know one author-to-be who’s been obsessing about something that happened in her life for the past ten years, and no novel in sight);
  • It’s challenging to write fiction about an event if any of the people concerned (or their relatives) are still alive;
  • My instinct and experience tell me that it’s almost impossible to do well if you’re a new author. Fiction is telling lies, and finding truths. Fictionalizing a real event takes a lot of distance from the event, as well as the ability to find meaning in it, and create drama from it. Experienced authors can do this. A new author often can’t.

Does this mean you should never try to fictionalize people or events from your own life?

No — definitely not. Every author can only write from his own experience, and only you are the judge of what works for your fiction writing.

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

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

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.