Writing Chapters: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

Writing.ie | Resources | Essential Guides | Links for Writers
Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

The chapters of your novel are the scaffolding of your story structure. The way you assemble them directly affects the way your story is delivered to the reader. So, getting it right is essential. The length, the pace, how you begin, and how you end your chapters are all important to the overall story. I have put together some articles and podcasts about writing chapters and their structure.

  1. How to Structure Chapters of Your Novel: 8 Tips for Writing Chapters – 2023 – MasterClass

Chapters are the vessels of story structure, organising the plot points of the larger work and allowing the reader to take a break and absorb what they’ve learnt. Structuring chapters in a way that keeps readers immersed in the story is essential to novel writing. Masterclass shares tips on how to structure the chapters of your novel. Start with action. A chapter that opens with a character in motion or a sense of urgency is far more interesting to a reader than one that opens with a character musing quietly to themselves. Shape your chapters around plot development. Some writers end each chapter with a cliffhanger to keep the reader engaged in what comes next. You should approach each chapter with a specific goal and consider pacing. Chapter lengths lay the track for your novel’s pacing.

  1. Tips for Writing Chapters | NY Book Editors

Chapters are important for creating structure within your novel. They give your reader a chance to pause, breathe, reflect, and anticipate what happens next. Chapters also help to control the speed in which you reveal your story. There are no hard rules on the number of chapters you should have or how long they should be. Checking out books in your genre is a good indication of what will work. This article discusses the differences between a chapter and a scene and then moves on to how to begin a chapter. Instead of setting the scene, get into some action. Description can slow the pace. Start with action. Add description. Go back to action. The goal of ending a chapter is to have built momentum and keep the reader gasping for more. Leaving your reader on a cliffhanger with every chapter can get exhausting for your reader, so consider using the option of foreshadowing a future event. Chapters are like unresolved mini-stories that are interconnected. To find out what happens, the reader must read them all. Each chapter should have at least the following: a setting, characters, motivations (external and internal), conflict, and cause and effect (or action and reaction).

  1. Structure of a Novel – How to Write a Chapter | Now Novel

The structure of a novel is important because it contributes to the clarity and flow of your story. Now Novel shares 7 tips to write well-structured chapters, including examples from great fiction. Consider using chapter titles, they can give cohesion to novels. A title may hint at what the coming chapter is a book, summarise important themes and give useful information, helping the reader understand where or when the events of your chapter occur. Start a chapter with structure-enhancing links. Think of echoes you can create backwards and forwards through your story by structuring chapter openings around recurring ideas, symbols, or themes. Think about the length of your chapters. Short, action-heavy chapters help speed up the pace. Longer, reflective chapters that linger over the setting or historical description give the reader a breather. You should vary the length for an interesting novel structure. This article also emphasises the importance of thinking about the broader structure alongside individual chapters and discusses how to create a great internal chapter structure. Lastly, it advises you to use outlines. Thinking of chapters as summary-form story units that you can move around as you want gives you the freedom to move around the story’s parts.

  1. Chapter Structure: How to Write the Perfect Chapter – The Novel Smithy

When done well, chapters should fade quietly into the background, subtly shaping your readers’ experience without ever being intrusive. Using chapter structure will help you create perfect chapters. This article from The Novel Smithy first of all explains that chapters are not the same as scenes. Chapter structure is all about shaping your readers’ experience. A well-structured chapter should help your reader keep track of the events of your story, provide natural passing points for your reader to leave and return to, create a sense of suspense and urgency in your reader, and maintain a solid pacing that keeps your reading moving forward. This article focuses on a type of chapter structure called a chapter funnel. It explains the four levels of the chapter funnel and discusses the cliffhanger chapter funnel.

  1. How to Start a Chapter: 5 Ways to Hook Your Readers in Every Chapter – 2023 – MasterClass

Another article from Masterclass. This one shares 5 ways to hook your reader in every chapter including, beginning with action – It doesn’t have to be a high-adrenaline chase sequence, it just means using some sort of activity as your starting point. Trying a new point of view can help you introduce distinct and memorable characters while providing a new narrative vessel for backstory and world-building. This can be an exciting way of destabilising your reader’s expectations and keeping them engaged. Revealing new information and including sensory details will also help to hook your readers.

PODCASTS
  1. How to Write Chapters That Captivate Readers (well-storied.com)

Chapters give your novel structure, but over the years, that’s not all they do. Chapters also create a sense of pacing, of forward momentum, and — if you play your cards just right — a sense of page-turning urgency. Chapter breaks aren’t just places for readers to stick their bookmarks. They’re an opportunity for you, the author, to further captivate them! This podcast from Well-storied discusses how you can make sure you’re writing captivating chapters.

  1. 07: Creating Chapters | Writing Excuses

How do you create chapters? What are the rules for carving your manuscript into numbered chunks? Is chaptering part of your outline, is it something you discover while you write, or is it something else entirely? In this episode, we talk about how we do it, and how we think about it while it’s being done.

  1. Episode 4: Where to End a Chapter (amiekaufman.com)

Amie Kaufman works hard to make her stories unputdownable. There’s an art to getting a chapter just right. She shares 4 tips for you when it comes to keeping readers up well past their bedtime.

The good thing about chapters is that they are moveable. Don’t be scared to change the order of your chapters, just be sure to save a draft! Play around with how you start and end a chapter. Take particular note of the pacing and vary somewhat to keep your reader interested. I hope you have found this week’s column helpful. As always, if there are any topics you would like me to cover please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books