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Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:18 am
confetti says...

I've never really tried writing a real novel before. It's been mostly just short works and occasional poetry for a while and so I was wondering, how do I know when to end one chapter and begin another? I'm guessing that length doesn't matter much, but it would be wonderful if someone could give me some tips on the matter. I feel so clueless! Thanks a billion, guys.
"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads."
— Dr. Seuss

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Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:39 am
Rosendorn says...

This article might help.

For me, what I do is plan out a rough goal for any chapter I write. An example could be, "Establish current setting" or "get through illness and recovery". Then, all scenes get focused on that one point and I know to move on when the topic is rather exhausted. It makes for a natural progression, I find.

But that's me. Others probably have different methods. One I've heard is, "this just felt like the right place to end the chapter." Really, it depends on what's best for you.
A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

Ink is blood. Paper is bandages. The wounded press books to their heart to know they're not alone.

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Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:54 am
RacheDrache says...

A "this just felt like the right place to end the chapter" person, weighing in. Well, sort of.

In the last two novels I wrote, I had really, really short chapters with tiny or non-existent time-lapses. That means, I didn't have any exposition paragraphs or sentences like, "After he got to the room," or, "He told them about his crazy dream," where I was condensing action. No, I followed each and every action more or less second-for-second, So if I got to a spot with dead-time, where a different writer might have condensed, I made a new chapter. These chapters were always over a page long (sometimes just barely), usually about 1.5-2, and I think the longest was 3.5-4ish. These scenes were then grouped into "Parts" that somehow formed coherent units for one reason or another.

Basically, the Parts carried the thematic or plot weight, and the chapters were sub-scenes. I did this for pacing--it gave the illusion of things whipping right along.

For my current novel, I might be doing something similar, only on a much more "When it feels right" basis with more variation. One that's a few paragraphs, one that's pages and pages. I don't know yet exactly, but we'll see.

A lot of it depends on what type of writer you are, and what type of novel it is.

J.K. Rowling uses a method similar to the one Rosey described. The chapters are more or less the same length, but there's a "plot thing" or "goal" in every chapter and the stuff that happens around it. Lots of other authors use this method, and to great success. Another popular writer would be Suzanne Collin's with The Hunger Games. Fairly regular chapter length, each with a sort of arc and plot-ness to them.

Stephen King, on the other hand, is probably more or my chapter-making hero. In one of his novels, he had a chapter that was just a few words.

The end answer is that chapters may be as long or as short as you like, and you may end them wherever you like. Ideally, you end the chapter in a place that makes the reader want to read the next chapter. But it is all up to you.
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The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.
— Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest