Every writer knows that ending your chapters well is crucial. You want to bring that particular scene or a piece of action to an end, while also leaving everything on a mini cliffhanger so your readers can’t wait to pick up your book again and find out what happens next!
The art of breaking your book up into chapters is something that authors should pay attention to. Understanding appropriate points to have a chapter break will create suspense, and keep your readers reading.
Only you will know when it feels right to end a chapter and begin a new one - it is a personal, creative decision. You may wish to keep your chapters all roughly the same length, for example, or mix them up. You may wish to give each chapter an enticing title, you may wish to make each chapter switch to a different character's point of view.
Whatever you decide to do, there are some simple techniques for chaptering that every writer should employ, regardless of the type of book they are writing.
Write first, do your chaptering later
While many authors find writing chapter outlines very useful, if you are determined to stick to these no matter what, this could end up being detrimental to your story. As you write you'll find that it becomes easy to end and begin chapters where there are natural breaks in the story. Even if these don’t stick to your original plan, it’s better to go with your instincts then fight against them for the sake of it. This way your chapters will end organically rather than seeming forced. When you have finished your book you can go through each chapter individually and shift your beginnings and endings if you feel that they aren’t in the right place.
Think about what each chapter should contain
Every chapter should be a mini story all of its own. It should have a beginning, middle and an end. At the end of each chapter, the reader should feel as though the story has advanced and that they know a little bit more than they did before. Each chapter should have its own dramatic action, should reveal more about your characters, and, of course, end in such a way that the reader doesn’t want to put your book down.
Use chapters to direct your reader
End a chapter when your story requires a change, a shift in pace or a turning point. Chapters can be used to help the readers follow the characters on their journey, but also to draw attention to things. An unexpectedly short chapter that is packed with revelations or dramatic action will capture the reader's attention. Similarly, one that is full of mystery will signify to your readers that they should take note of the details and will stick with them in their minds until the big reveal.
Ending your chapters well will always leave the readers wanting more. We all want our books to be those ones readers describe as ‘unputdownable’, and paying attention to your chaptering will help make your book just that!
I must confess I did follow the "do your chaptering later" advice. But then, I was not aware of that until now. I did end up making each chapter seem like a mini story, since I did not attempt to follow a timeline for the entire story as a whole. Some of these chapters could have been even longer. I now think I could have written an entire memoir (or at least one of novella length) of what happened to me in the year 2001 in the months and days leading up to 9/11. The year started with my 30th birthday in January. And in one chapter, I tell about a particular year of what I felt was a personal trauma. Again, this one might have been a memoir book of its own, or at least a novella-length one. One family friend who read my preliminary story written last year and sent as a PDF by email called me on the lack of a timeline. But I felt I had worked so hard and did not wish to change it to follow a timeline. I had been thinking of things in terms of subject and felt it worked better this way. To try to rework the entire story into a chronological timeline would mean even more rewriting that what I have already done. But although writing does involve rewriting over and over, this would have meant major writing reconstruction, and major rethinking. I felt it works well the way it is indwell do my best with it that way.
I'm also amazed at how short it was when I sent it out by email more than year ago this month and how much longer it is at present. Some of the chapters started out very short (one was a little less than three printed pages) but I have managed to make each of them even longer, enough to make the whole story seem like it's long enough for a book. One friend said the original seemed to short for a book, but I was sure I could make it longer. And that's what I have been doing.