Writing, a process: Chapter Length

Plotting and planning a novel can be a hurricane, but beginning a chapter and knowing the appropriate length of it, is a battle of its own.

Without prior knowledge into creative writing, this can be a minefield, but that’s nothing to be scared of. Rather, embrace that fear and pour it into your chapter, because if you feel you haven’t exhausted what you started with the first word, then you’re far from finished.

During an online writing course, I was taught something; plot a chapter the same way you would plot your novel. That is to say a chapter needs a beginning or an introduction, a climax and a conclusion or a cliffhanger.

The introduction of the chapter sets the scene, the conflict, introduces the characters. For example, you’re writing a romance, Character A, arrives at a hospital, what does she see, her one true love? why is she there? Why is he there? The beginning puts the reader in the room, sets the tone and mood, and identifies the conflict ( The issue to be resolved, say this loved one was in an accident from keeping a secret, and as much as she’s hurt that he’s in this condition, she wants to know what he’s hiding). Once the conflict is introduced, it can be tackled in the climax.

The climax which is the highest point in the chapter introduces a tension, it is the build up from the introduction that leaves the reader wondering whether or not the conflict will be resolved, does she find out this secret from Character B?

The conclusion or cliffhanger is the ending of the chapter, it is advised for any genre for there to be the presence of cliffhangers to keep the readers flipping the page, this can be as simple as leaving the readers barely satisfied, toss them a bone, not a big one, leave them wanting more, he tells her something, something about that secret, but there’s more, she knows it she can feel it. Leave your readers wanting to know what happens in the next chapter.

Once you’ve fulfilled this, your chapter can range anything from 500 words to 1500 words or more. Keep in mind the size of the chapter doesn’t matter too much, as long as these elements are followed.

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