What is a Chapter?
A chapter is usually two or more scenes, but it can be one scene. Chapters can come in a variety of sizes. How large and small your chapter will be will largely depend on how big your book is and on your audience.
It stands to reason the bigger your book, the more chapters and perhaps the bigger your chapters. Too short of a chapter and too many can be less effective. However, long chapters can be cumbersome. Therefore, it’s important to experiment to find the right chapter size for your story. Short chapters are often a single scene. Longer chapters may be two or more scenes.
The length of your chapter can depend on your audience. Shorter chapters help the story to move along quicker. If you are writing for family and holding their attention is an issue shorter chapters may work. Again, experiment to strike the right balance that works for your story and your audience.
There is no right or wrong chapter length it is the personal choice of the author.
When to Start a New Chapter
However, there are some guidelines when it comes to starting a new chapter. Like the endings of scenes, chapter endings should be well thought out. For instance:
- When you feel a significant shift in the story
- If the point of view changes
- If a new scene is starting
- change of place or time
- a significant change of some kind
- after spending a long time in one setting or situation
Don’t look at organizing your chapters until after your first draft. I don’t make chapter part of my initial outline. You can even wait until after your first draft to break your story into chapters. Get the story down first then decide on the moments to end and start your chapters. Get the story down first.
Just as we discussed in scene endings, chapter endings should follow the same suit. Break a chapter in the heart of the action with cliffhangers, or at interesting points that leave your reader wondering what is next. Hook your reader to what is coming next.
Just like a hook at the beginning of your story, you also want to leave your reader with a hook at the end of the chapter. I like to make my chapter endings bigger hooks then my scene endings. It’s a critical moment we want to make sure you’re thrusting your reader to the next page.