Have you encountered the situation where you’re unsure of when to break your chapters?
Like whether you should end the chapter in the middle of a battle or until the epic long battle is over.
Well, here are some tips on when to insert your chapters breaks as well as everything you need to know when writing a chapter.
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What Is A Chapter?
A novel is divided into related sections called ‘chapters’.
Chapters give readers a satisfying, easy-to-digest experience. This is where you
- Provide a short break for readers to pause & digest what happened in the story
- Signal transition (eg. change in setting or story arc)
Each chapter consists of one or many scenes. These scenes are related and strung together into a chapter.
For instance, you could show your protagonist working till late at night in Chapter 1 Scene 1. In Scene 2, your protagonist is drowsily crossing the road and thus, is hit by a car. Then in the next chapter, you only have 1 scene of him being sent to the hospital and how he is saved by the ER team.
How Long Should A Chapter Be?
Bear in mind that there are no strict rules about chapter length.
You can end a chapter whenever you think it’s appropriate. It’s really up to you, the author behind the book.
Take me for example, I like to end a chapter when an event is over or when a conflict is resolved. Or if it’s a long day with many battles, I will spread the battles over a few chapters and deliberately end each chapter on a cliffhanger~
All chapters don’t have to be equal length either.
But bear in mind that chapter length will affect the pacing of your novel.
Having a few short chapters consecutively will quicken the pace while long chapters will slow down the pace.
Just look at the chapter length of some books! Some books might be evenly paced while in other books, the chapters might grow shorter or longer as the story progresses.
How To Format Chapter Breaks
Do insert a page break when you’re writing your manuscript in Microsoft Word! This will ensure that your chapter ends on the current page and your next chapter will begin on a new page.
You can choose to show formatting to view and ensure that a page break is really inserted.
After you’ve inserted the page break, check that the new chapter has a chapter number and title with the same font and font size as your current chapter. Also, check that the story starts on the same line. For example, if you start the story at two-thirds down the page (with the chapter title covering half of the page), then this should be applied to all chapters. Ensure that the formatting is consistent across all chapters.
Scrivener (available on both Mac and Windows) is a writing software designed specifically for authors. You can also control page breaks in this software.
When To End A Chapter? When To Start A New Chapter?
When there’s a change of place or location, this is the best chance to end a chapter and begin a new chapter.
This also applies to a change in time. When you switch to morning or night, you can consider creating a new chapter instead. Readers will also be aware that there’s a time skip.
You can also break chapters with the entrance or exit of a character. This moment might be important because this character’s entrance or exit might affect the direction of the story.
If you switch the point of view (POV), you can also consider breaking the chapters. Like one chapter is written in Character A’s POV then the next chapter in Character B’s POV.
Of course, you can also choose to start or end a chapter based on the story. For instance, when…
- the direction of the story changes
- the action is significantly different
- you’re focusing on a subplot
How To End A Chapter?
Here are some interesting ways to end a chapter.
Do try to mix them up. This way, you’ll surprise readers by ending chapters differently each time (rather than making them predictable by always ending chapters in the same way).
This is one of the common ways to end a chapter.
Resolution is where you end the chapter by bringing the event to a close and nicely wrapping up with a conclusion. You give readers a sense of closure for everything that happened in the chapter.
Examples would be your characters falling asleep or a description of the night to signal the end of the day.
Consider breaking your chapters in the heart of the action. This could mean ending mid-scene, where your characters are in the midst of a battle or an adventurous activity like skydiving.
But it doesn’t always have to be an action scene.
Cliffhanger is where you leave readers in suspense. You could put your character in a precarious or difficult situation. The key is to make your readers eager to read the next chapter.
For instance, you could end the chapter by revealing a secret. Like how a wife found out her husband cheated on her.
As long as you leave readers hanging from a cliff, you’ve created an effective cliffhanger~
Another way to end a chapter is by creating a prophecy. This helps to add a sense of foreboding if it’s an ominous one.
Just a simple line like “This was the beginning of our tragic relationship.” is enough to make readers curious about what will happen in the next chapter.
This is where you end the chapter on a more positive note. Unlike the prophecy method above, this is where you end the chapter with something better like a new possibility, idea, change or opportunity.
It could be something that changes the direction of the story or moves the plot forward.
Here is where you add an obstacle. This could be anything that hinders your protagonist from reaching his goal or stops him in his journey.
For example, a new and stronger enemy appears. Or his car breaks down when he’s in a rush to meet an important person.
Choices & Decisions
You could end with your protagonist making a choice or decision, where both options have terrible consequences. Or that this choice or decision might seem trivial but actually has far-reaching implications that the protagonist can’t see yet.
Or you could also end a chapter with your protagonist being presented with the choices and is about to make a decision. In other words, he or she hasn’t chosen or decided anything. You leave your readers hanging here and they will only know what choice or decision your protagonist made in the next chapter.
Ending with a realization is another way to engage readers.
For instance, your character might have realized something important after piecing all the clues together. Or he realized something has gone wrong. Or he realized he was wrong and committed a mistake.
You could also end with an intriguing question.
Or just state a question that is burning at the back of readers’ mind. This creates a connection between readers and your protagonist since they’re curious about the same thing and have the same question. This can be ironic too if your character doesn’t know the answer but readers know.
Now It’s Your Turn
How long or short are your chapters usually? When do you switch chapters? How do you end your chapters?