Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapterness Conclusion

            Studying chapterness in Wintergirls, freed me to see how each of my chapters could grow organically.  To assume there is a formula for chapter structure would be a misinterpretation of this little study.  There are all kinds of chapters: short one-scene chapters, chapters that start with some exposition and build into a scene and then another scene, chapters that frame a flashback in a present scene to forward the character’s journey.  The possibilities are endless.   
            At least now, I have some tools with which to prod my chapters to see if they’re actually functioning as chapters: 

       1) Is my character moving forward inside and out?  
       2) Does my character face choices, and do I take him far enough?  
       3) Does a complication cause a rise in tension that lands the character in a new place?   
       4) Do the smaller arcs clump to form a larger one?   

These questions helped me shift around the note cards on which I'd outlined my novel, as well as, add some cards that were missing.  I’m sure I’ll re-see my chapters as I write through my second draft.  I just feel glad to not be falling back on mere intuition about where the chapters should begin and end.  It helps to have a thoughtful understanding of some actual mechanics of chapters.
            Special thanks to one of my personal YA goddesses, Laurie Halse Anderson, for writing such an artful book.
            What are your thoughts on chapterness?  How do you structure your chapters?  What kind of chapters do you like to read the most?  When you read, do you hold onto each chapter conceptually in your memory or do you sort of get lost in them?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on chapters too.  Thoughtful artistry means exchanging ideas and refining the way we see our art.


  1. Great post, Jill!! It is exactly what I need to read after NaNo craziness is over and we can slow down our writing pace and do more "thinking" about how and what to write.

    Laurie Halse (rhymes with waltz- had to add that for her) Anderson is a personal favorite of mine, too. She definitely rocks, as well as shining a light on the path.

    I've bookmarked this site and shall return!

  2. Hi Jill! So glad to see another great blog by a fellow COSCBWI member! Your blog looks great and is already full of such helpful information!

    Per your above questions, I structure my chapters by gut-feeling. If it feels too long, I go back and look for those little arcs that might be better off standing on their own. And if it seems too short/empty, I search for where those little arcs might need some more meat. When I finish a chapter with that, "Ah!" feeling, then I know I might have finally done something right! :)

    Best of luck with the blog! I'll be adding you to my "follow" list!