Wednesday, October 19, 2011


            I was sitting in Cynthea Liu’s Revision 911 workshop avidly scrawling notes when she pointed out that the end of a chapter does not occur just because you’ve reached the end of a scene.  Of course not, I thought joining the writers around me in their nodding, but uh, so, what exactly is a chapter then?  I put chapterness  on my list of writing stuff to investigate, but didn’t face it directly until this summer when the first draft of my novel  was spread across the dining room table on one hundred note cards.
            So what makes a chapter a chapter then?  I’d always like books with those short two or three page chapters strung like pearls on the string to make a story.  A spotlight flashing on each vignette and then fading quickly out, leaving the audience to consider what the collage of short chapters said as a whole.  But I rarely wrote that way.  The note cards on my dining room table were arranged into ten chapter groups.  I’d just kind of intuited what held together.  Some of my chapters even had a titles that held their scenes together thematically.  But there were a lot of scenes in each chapter.  Did I really have ten books in my story (Book I, Book II, etc) that should each be divided into smaller chapters?  I just kept coming back to what makes a chapter?  And how do chapters build one upon the other?
            I'll be following up on these questions in a short study of Lauris Halse Anderson's Wintergirls over the course of my next several post.  In the meantime I'd love to hear your ideas on what makes a chapter?

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