Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Novel Writing Step by Step - Part Three

How to Outline Chapters in a Novel

By this stage of planning, you should have written a basic story outline and developed the characters for your novel. Before starting to write, the next step is planning the chapters. How this is done depends on a number of factors.

What Type of Book are you Writing
While there are no set rules, certain genres tend to be written and laid out in similar ways. If you are aiming at a specific publisher, look through as many of their books as you can. Count how many chapters are in a story and work out the length of these. If they have guidelines on the internet, read through them several times.

Work from a Synopsis
If you have written a synopsis, use this as a basis for outlining chapters. If you have decided you need twenty chapters, list the numbers one to twenty and then write a sentence next to each. The sentence should be a summary of what that chapter will contain. Each chapter should develop a particular scene that moves the story along.

Developing the Ideas
If writer’s block strikes, it can be useful to take small cards and write out a two to three sentence summary of scenes you can visualise. Then shuffle these around until you find the order that makes the most sense. Now work out what chapters need to go between them to join the story together.

Beginnings and Endings of Chapters
Most people read a book in chapters; that is they will read a whole chapter rather than a half chapter. For this reason, the beginning and ending of chapters are very important. The introduction of a chapter needs to ask questions and arouse curiosity. The end needs to leave the reader hanging so they feel compelled to read on. Bear this in mind when planning your chapters.

Like the rest of the planning process, chapter layout is bound to change as you begin writing. Don’t be discouraged by this but continue to adapt and adjust as ideas come and the story grows and matures.

Next week we’ll examine the process of writing your book

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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kc said...

I disagree about knowing how many chapters you will have. Scenes and sequels are way more important than the number of chapters or where the chapter breaks are. They can come much later.

kc said...

Okay, never mind. I think I misread the first time. We are thinking along the same lines after all! I just don't personally deal with chapters until way later.