Chapter Breaks and How We Use Them

Carefully placed chapter breaks create cliff hanger endings.

Where do you begin a chapter?  Where do you end it?

When I was a new writer, the answers seemed obvious.  My chapters, when I wasn’t writing picture books, always corresponded to scenes.  Beginning a new chapter meant beginning a new scene.  When the scene ended, so did the chapter.  I eventually learned to play up tension by ending with a cliff hanger, but this meant learning to end my scene with a cliff hanger more than it meant changing where I end my chapters.

And then I drafted out a middle grade novel with no chapter breaks what-so-ever.  I wasn’t trying anything artsy.  I just didn’t want to have to remember to renumber  chapters  as I divided or combined chapters throughout the rewrite.

As I got deeper into the rewrite process, I broke the manuscript into chapters and I noticed something – this time around my chapters didn’t coincide with individual scenes.  Sure, some of them did.  But sometimes a scene played out across two chapters.  Or one chapter contained one scene and part of another.   It all depended on what would create the most tension.

To find out more about this, read Saturday’s post on the Muffin.