Category Archives: Novels

Chapters: are they too big? or too short?

It’s quite common when writing a novel to realize that your chapters have very different sizes. You may wonder: is this okay? Is there some standard length for a chapter? Not at all.

Chapters are actually not as important as they might seem in the finished book. They are huge bags where you put some scenes, so the reader can give himself small goals while reading your book. The scenes are the important ones, the basis of everything.

They are part of the planning

I didn’t know that in my first novel. I sat down and wrote, whatever came to my mind. Beautiful words, disorganized scenes, a crappy publisher, and we had a novel. Zero planning. Disappointing final work.

I worked a lot after that. I knew I could do better, and my second novel was planned to exhaustion. To organize the chapters, I tried to fit in each of them the same number of scenes. I also tried that all the scenes had a similar number of words. It didn’t work that well. I mean, the result was quite better than the first one, but it takes out some of the spontaneity I need when I’m writing. That made some scenes sound a bit artificial.

Like me, you need to find your own way. You can go mathematically, planning a book with x chapters, with y scenes in each one, or try to write more freely. Any place between these two extremes is good. Whatever you choose is good if it works for you and your story. The length of a chapter isn’t as important as the quality of your scenes.

As a reader, however, I find a very long chapter tiring. Yet, there are exceptions. Sometimes, you can read 100 pages in a row without realizing it. It happens when the story was too exciting and the writing so good, you just couldn’t stop.

When to end the chapter?

Choosing the right moment to end the chapter can be tricky. You can make your job easier by dividing it into scenes. I like to end it in moments of suspense and curiosity. They help to make the reader turn the page and (hopefully) read one more chapter.

Generally, you want to end with a big happening that leads your reader to ask, “what is he going to do?”. It can be something like a brief description of a sound or smell the character noticed. Something interesting enough to make the reader wonder what was that. Sometimes, it’s enough to describe what the character is feeling. For example, “He looked at the open door and felt out of breath.” without explaining the motive.

All of those could be great ways of ending a chapter. They lead people to keep reading to know what was happening.

Sometimes, the chapter ends with a mystery that has been in the story for too long. Perhaps an answer your reader was seeking since the beginning. That can work too, depending on the story.

Imagine that you are the reader. You finally got that answer you’re searching for since chapter 1. You look at the book, and there is still half a book to read. What would you think of it? Could you trust this answer to be the truth? Would you keep reading?

Keep it interesting

I don’t know a single writer that isn’t an avid reader as well. You know, as a reader, what keeps you going and what makes a book boring. Look at your story. Would you read it? If you’re not sure now, put your story aside and read it later, tomorrow or next week. This will give you some emotional distance, allowing you to be less partial about it.

A boring book doesn’t sell. People have way too many ways to distract themselves rather than invest their time in something that is not entertaining enough – assuming you’re writing fiction. If it’s not the case and you’re writing non-fiction, keep in mind that no one likes to feel bored anyway. My advice is for you to study your audience carefully.

The good thing about writing is that there are no rigid rules, only guidelines and lots of creativity.

Novels or Short stories?

Should I write short stories or novels? Many beginning writers have this question on their minds. Mostly, this is because many people believe that short stories are for beginners and novels for professionals as if the novels are the “real thing”.

Wrong.

There isn’t a strict rule about how or what you should write. The most important thing for you to know is what each one of those things means, in practice.

Short stories

Short stories are, without a doubt, the easiest way to experiment with your writing. You can easily try different things, grow your personal voice and develop your own writing techniques, without losing too much time on each of those.

This is good for any author! You can be a best-seller, acclaimed writer and even so, find yourself wanting to experiment and try out new things. So what? It’s important for development, finding your way through a new genre, creating good characters, and so many other things that will improve your writing prowess.

Novels

Writing a novel is a completely different experience. It demands lots of time, focus, and commitment from you.

Differently from the short story, you don’t know everything from the beginning, it’s more-so an open work where things will be changing on occasion, even whilst you’re writing. It’s also very good for practice, it just takes a lot more time than a short-story, which can sometimes mean a whole lot of frustration if things end up not exactly as you had envisioned or don’t have the expected outcome.

 

 

It happens to any writer, having an idea yet not knowing if we should write and develop it as a novel or a short story. Let me tell you: it doesn’t matter. Start writing, organizing your ideas and you’ll sooner than you realize, know which way you want to take it.

The most important rule is to read. If you want to be a good writer, you must read, a lot. A whole lot. And if you already know the genre you’d like to write in, choose stories or novels in that genre. Learn as must as you can and let your creativity flow through your words.

The First Page

You have a masterpiece in hand. You wrote it for months on end, maybe even years, and now you’re super excited about getting your work out there. However, you’re afraid… And you should be.

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your book is. If no one will read it, what’s the point, right? Just a tip: the first page is critical to the success of your book, so it must be impactful.


What makes people look at it?

Most people will open a book and read the first paragraph, maybe the full first page if you’re lucky. You have to use it in your favor.

When you open a book, you usually want to know what the story is about and how it’ll be told. So, the first page has to do exactly that. You can’t tell the whole story, obviously, what you should do is lead your readers to peek through a window and catch a glimpse of your story, get a slight idea for what’s going on and become curious. If they want to enter the place, you’ve done a good job.

A novel’s first page has many functions

The first page has to make your reader curious enough to keep on reading, and for that, they need two essential pieces of information: who the protagonist is and what the conflict is about. So, you need to relay this information, without revealing too much and make a good impression.

The protagonist entrance should, most of the time, be done here and should be memorable. Something about him or her has to have an impact on your readers. As a writer, you have to keep in mind, that whatever you choose to show, is critical for the impact the rest of the book will have and the way your readers will look at the story.

So, you should put yourself in your reader’s shoes and think of what would be really annoying on a first page. Then, try your hardest to avoid doing any of the things that would lead to you writing a similar thing! The first situation to have happen in your novel must be interesting enough to make them want to move onwards to page 2.

So, you should give some context to your readers. Don’t need to tell everything, just enough to make them curious. A novel is about conflict, they should have some clue in the first page as to build a notion of that conflict, through action, dialogue or interior monologue, but it must say “there is something here that might go wrong…”

An action-filled scene suddenly interrupted by another one where, someone, somewhere, somehow related to the protagonist present on the first scene, is calm and peaceful, doing something that apparently has nothing to do with the first scene, might do the trick. “What is happening here?” is the question you want your readers to ask themselves so they keep turning the pages. Meanwhile, they’re creating a movie in their heads, brimming with possibilities. You must feed that movie carefully, not too quickly nor too slowly, so they keep reading.

What do you need for a good start?

You need to begin. The start of it all. This is always the most complicated part of a project, no matter which one we’re talking about. In case of a book, the beginning doesn’t need to be the first thing to write, never let yourself forget that. Just write your story, make it as perfect as you can and eventually you’ll find a great beginning to your tale. I assure you that makes things easier.

Another common mistake that leads the writers in the wrong direction is thinking of the beginning of a story as an introduction to it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be that way. The reader doesn’t need to know everything on the first page, just enough to make them curious enough to explore more. You can choose an interesting point of the story and start there, without any explanation. You can start with a dialogue, a problem, a conflict… Think outside the box. Be creative! This will provide you with an undoubtedly interesting start to your amazing story.