by Meredith Cole
Chapters can be small–or long. They can take place in one day–or not. And everyone seems to do their chapters a little differently. Confused? I used to be.
I remember when I wrote my first book (still sitting unpublished in a drawer, thank goodness), I started each chapter with my main character waking up. She went through her day, and at the end of the chapter she went to bed. Ho-hum. Asleep yet? Yeah–me, too.
Without changing much (except deleting all the unnecessary wake ups and bedtimes), I tried moving the chapter start and end times so something exciting happened at the end and the beginning of each. I did this a bit randomly at first, making one chapter very short and another chapter three times as long, but it radically changed the feel and rhythm of my book. My book no longer felt so dull, but started to feel like a real page turner. If something I tried didn’t work, I would just change it again (and again) until I found the right moment. Eventually my skill and sense of timing got better and I started to naturally “feel” where one chapter ended and the next began.
Final chapter decisions are now something I leave until I’ve gone through several drafts of my book. I’m no longer fearful of making a mistake (hey–you can always save the draft as something new and you always have your previous chapter divisions that you can always return to…). I think of it as an opportunity to change the way my story feels and the way I feel about my story.