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How to Write Chapters

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Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:03 am
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Snoink says...

Okay, I was getting really hung up on this at first. I mean, I had this fabulous idea for a novel, yet it took me months to write a chapter. Why? Mostly because I love editing, perhaps to a scary extent. When I write my story, I edit as I go, and the computer only encourages this. Sad? Yes. But still: What to do???

Well, this week I went on vacation where I thought (wrongly) that I wouldn't have any access to a computer. To continue writing on my story, I took a notebook along and plenty of pencils and erasers. Then, as soon as I had spare time (like an hour block) I wrote.


First thing I did was to write a prenotes thing on every chapter. This includes three things:


Do a short three sentence summary of your chapter. What happens? What characters are in it?


At first I didn't do this, but then I realized, if I was just writing nothing, then it would be really bad. What were my intentions in the chapter? This also meant I got to delve into any symbolism I was writing. That way, I could be sure that my writing was somewhat orderly.


This is essentially the outline of the summary. Put what happens in chronological order.

The pre-notes was very short... less than a page, typically.


Then I wrote. I tried to write without stopping, and I didn't edit. If I felt the incredible urge to edit, I would write in the margins about what I could do. I didn't erase. Instead, if I hated something, I put a line through it and continued as if nothing happened.

Once when I was writing chapter 14, I messed up really bad. I mean, hideously bad. So as soon I realized what I was doing, I put a large "STOP!" where the story left off, briefly told myself what sucked, and then restarted.

On the whole, I wrote without stopping though. A typical chapter took about two hours to write (by hand).


Once I finished the chapter, I reread it and looked for obvious errors, marking it either by a line underneath the guilty word or a note in the margin. Then I wrote a post notes thing for the story.

A post notes is basically what a critique is for YWS. I wrote what I liked about it, what I hated, and then I tried to brainstorm ideas about how I could fix the criminal errors. Some of my ideas were horrible, but since I wrote it down, it crystalized the problems in my brain and I was able to think of better ideas on the 14-hour car ride home.


What I found out from this experiment is that if I don't edit constantly, I can come up with some pretty sweet stuff. I can focus on one chapter at a time without missing out on the entire story, which is very important to me. Furthermore, I wrote THREE chapters in four days, which is more chapters than I usually churn out in a month! I will not lie... one of the chapters was absolutely terrible, but by doing the notes before and after like I did, I was able to diagnose it.

All in all, the experiment worked and I am definitely pleased with the results. Will I do this again? Definitely.

Happy writing!
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Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:50 pm
Aedomir says...

Great advice here!
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Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:21 pm
powerofwords2008 says...

okay. i see what you're saying and i agree that that's a good method, but one of the problems i come up with in trying to do an outline like that of a chapter is either i go way off from that outline or something else happens. another thing for me is that sometimes i find that an outline both makes me bored with the story before i get started and also sort of makes me feel limited. something else is getting to the point where the outline portion actually makes sense to me so that it's not like i've got completely different stories going on at the beginning of each one. what do you suggest i do? any advice would be helpful.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:04 pm
Monki says...

My favorite article in the database, Snoinkus. <3
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Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:15 am
SteviexOctopus says...

I am in love with this article! Ever since I read it years ago on your website (I swear I'm not a stalker, just a YWS lurker!) it has been one of my favorite writing articles I have ever read.

My only issue with it is, isn't the "What's Happening?" the same thing as the "Summary", only in bullet point form? Every time I use this I always find myself repeating whatever happens in the Summary only in bullets and with similar language. (like instead of "John and Ralph fight over girl, John wins and takes girl home." I write: "John fights Ralph. John Wins.")

Maybe I'm not getting the point of having these two things different, but why did you choose to have both and not just one or the other? I'd love to see an example. =]

Anyways, keep writing!

- Stevie
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Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:16 pm
Durriedog says...

Whoo! Go Snoinkers! Thank you! No wonder FREAK is so good... Thanks again!
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Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:24 pm
ArahAkachi1 says...

This is some good adivce. I usually don't edit it till I see what I did wrong. When I do hand write it (which is more than I type), I haven't wrote things in the margins and underlined words. So, the writing in the margins and underlining the words will come in handy now since I've read you post. Thanks!!
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