The Page a Day Writers Group

A Chapter is A Chapter

Posted on: November 30, 2010

James Patterson and Robert B. Parker’s are 2 or 3 pages. Any Rand’s run as long as 35. Most writers are somewhere in between. Me, I’m always struggling with knowing when to end a chapter and start the next one.

In my research to find a rule for how long a chapter should be, I’ve discovered there isn’t one. There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution.

Some writers look at a chapter as a short story—each one has a goal for the characters, a miniature plot arc, a climactic moment and some sort of resolution that leads their characters onward.

Some folks put in a chapter break when the POV changes, the scene shifts or time changes. A writing instructor told her class to aim for your chapters to be at least 20 pages long. Other would-be authors count words—somewhere between 4,500 and 5,500 seems to be enough for them.

“there is one fundamental principle for chapter endings: Something should always be amiss.”

In her blog, Gail Carson Levine says there is one fundamental principle for chapter endings: “Something should always be amiss. If one problem has been solved, another should rise from the horizon or come forward from the background.”

For more of Levine’s useful tips on how to write those page-turning, chapter-ending lines. Visit http://gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com/2009/11/end-of-chapter.html and when you get a second, tell me how you know when a chapter is a chapter.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

 

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2 Responses to "A Chapter is A Chapter"

I’ve heard some writers/teachers say hat they think it’s ‘cheap’ to end a chapter on a cliffhanger, but I think it’s fun and necessary. If the chapter concludes the section, what is left to propel readers to continue? I always love that feeling of ending a chapter and thinking “I’ll just read the next page to see what happens…”

Always leave ’em wanting more.

Something should always be amiss- this is a fabulous tip for chapter endings. So obvious, but simply put- I like the nutshell-ness of it. Thank you, Claire. Helpful!

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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