Breaks and Chaptering

Download Breaks and Chaptering, share with others, or read below. 48164_474986632555098_1991219916_a We have been asked on a few occasions about chaptering and breaks in a novel.  We thought it might be helpful to provide some information.


A break is required when a scene changes, time changes or a point of view changes.  If there is a jump in the fictional dream, a break is required for the reader.  At Tuscany Press, we put a line space then flush left the next paragraph.

When do you chapter?

The below information provides a good framework for chaptering.  It was found here.

Ten ways to know when it’s time to start a new chapter of your book

Here are a some thoughtful notes on how long your chapters should or could be. Remember, there is no one correct way of doing it!

1. Stick to regular chapter lengths — keep a word count

This seems to be popular with publishers of commercial genre fiction. If that’s your bag, make sure you read widely in your chosen genre and follow the formula. Or no word count — start writing a new chapter when:

2. Changing a point of view (POV), time, or location

A change of scenery, so to speak, is as good a time as any to start a new chapter. Whether you’re moving on to a different character’s POV, a different day, or new location in the story, it’s a prime time to consider if it’s time for a break.

3. A cliffhanger is needed

You’re writing a thriller. You’ve just introduced an amazing cliffhanger. What a downer if it was to be resolved in the next few paragraphs! Cliffhangers are the perfect place to break things off and go to a new chapter — your readers will be desperate to find out what happens.

4. There’s a question or conflict-opener

Another classic way of making your book ‘unputdownable’. When ending a chapter with a question or conflict-opener, your reader will see that white space below the final sentence and think, “Well? What happens next?!” and turn the page.

5. You want to up the pace

Short chapters are exciting and keep the pages turning. If there are events in your book that call for it, keep the chapters short.

6. The shape of your story demands it

Some stories start with short chapters (they can hook the reader in), move on to longer chapters in the middle to build the plot, then go back to short chapters to bring the story to a complete and satisfying ending. Look at your plot outline and work out what ‘shape’ your story is, and work on your chapter lengths accordingly.

7. Your reader’s attention may start to wander

This and the next point are related. Sometimes chapters are too long and I lose focus — I bet you’ve encountered books that have got you a little bored now and again. Read your chapter again. If your own attention starts to flag, it’s time.

8. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes to read your chapter

Sound advice from many bedside readers — this amount of time is usually how long a bedside reader wants to be occupied by a book before turning off the light. If you hope your book will be popular with night-time readers, heed this tip.

9. A specific chunk of your plot has ended

You’ve not only written a plot outline, you’ve practically storyboarded it. When something significant occurs and is resolved, a reader will be quite disconcerted (and they may not be able to quite put their finger on it, but trust me, they’ll feel it) when they are taken immediately to the next scene.

10. Two to three scenes have taken place

Some Litopians feel that two or three scenes per chapter is quite enough before a reader may want to take a mental break. They could be long or short, or a combination — it all depends on how you’ve planned your plot.


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