Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chapter Breaks

blog5 I thought I’d do a short post on chapter breaks today—because I’m currently going through my manuscript and sticking them in, so they’re on my brain!

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I write the text straight through and then put the chapter breaks in later. Although this isn’t a technique that works for everybody, it helps keep me from worrying about the formatting of the novel until I’m done being creative.

My books are about 75,000 words, so roughly 230 pages in a regular font like Times or Calibri. I do convert the text to Courier (where it’s more like 285-290 pages) and times the pages by 250 to get a better estimate of my word count…my books have a lot of dialogue and white space on the page.

This text, for me, usually ends up being nineteen or twenty chapters. I also use scene breaks within chapters to break up the material within the chapter. I like having good stopping points in books as a reader (I’m a distracted reader), so I try to put them in my books, too.

I don’t always end the chapter at an exciting moment because that seems a little gimmicky to me. But I do have cliffhanging chapter endings probably 3-4 times out of the 20. I also try to end chapters at points where readers want to read on instead of putting the book down—points where they want to see what happens next. And I try never to end a chapter with something boring happening or else the reader might not ever return to the book.

The length of my chapters varies. I do have usually one or two pretty short chapters and then a couple of chapters that are a lot longer—where maybe there wasn’t a great stopping place in the chapter. I try to break where it makes sense. And I make sure no chapters are excessively long—I’m a reader who likes knowing where the next intermission is, and I don’t want it too far off.

Have you got a chapter breaking method?

Please join me tomorrow when author and professional speaker L. Diane Wolfe guest posts on "Edits and Revisions."