As so many others, today I pay homage to my dad. To the best Dad I've ever had.
This photo captures his utter surprise at finding much needed boots under the tree. If you can't tell, he isn't wearing any footwear that morning even though I seem to recall he'd already been out to tend cattle.
I have often heard the question by new authors, "How do you know when to start a new chapter?" Or "How long should a chapter be?" Or variations thereof whether at conferences, on-line or face-to-face (yes, authors do occasionally leave their writing niches for 'live' human contact.)
The answers are seemingly as varied as those answering the question. So, here are my few cents worth (Those that have read or will read my work in the future can watch for these.)
#1 - In my opinion, there is no such thing as a chapter that is too short, as long as it contains a complete scene - I've read one that was less than a page. Although I love writing and verbalizing a bit too much to accomplish this feat of excellence.
#2 - I personally like to have a chapter run about ten pages but I've read one or two that were closer to thirty.
#3 - Since most readers assume that a chapter break is the best place to put a book down, the author is facing the dreaded loss of interest by the reader. So as Jack M. Bickham says in his book, Scene and Structure, " always end them(the chapter) at a point where the reader can't put the book down." So, the simplest way to avoid the dreaded 'lay down' is with a carefully crafted 'hook.'
#4 - Generally speaking, your chapters in a specific work should be relatively similar, but don't be afraid to step outside the box if the plot benefits from it.
#5 - IMHO, A chapter needs to have a chapter goal, whether stated or inferred, usually only one point of view or viewpoint, and ends in a jarring disaster.
Note: The jarring disaster is not the same as your story climax.
Now, before you etch these guidelines in stone and thereafter set the stones in cement, remember that every guideline is simply that, a guideline and at times, to keep your reader involved, needs to be broken. Don't break the rule or guideline just because you're feeling lazy or can't figure out how to make it work. Remember that writing is work and you better be doing it for the love affair with the writing craft, not the perceived accolade or cash at the end of the proverbial rainbow. Just like in real life, where there is rarely a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so it is with writing and if everyone could do it, we would all be authors and not readers.
Excerpt from a novel - Houdini's Vice - that is being deleted but it shadows an experience I had. Mom used to grow horseradish in the garden for Dad, but we kids, or at least I never had it.
Porsche wrinkled her nose remembering her first experience with the spicy condiment. She had attended a work luncheon her first year away at school. She ordered a Rueben plate. The horseradish arrived on the side and not wanting to offend her host, Porsche had dressed her sandwich with a generous dollop. The first bite hadn't been bad with just a hint of heat. Her second bite, a borderline unlady-like one at that, hadn't proved as benign. The heat started at her nose, tickling at first. She inhaled and the rush to her sinuses cleared them for the landing of a B52 bomber in the dessert, it was time to send in the rain in the form of her tears. She blinked them back feeling like the country bumpkin she knew herself to be. Frantic for relief, she grabbed her water glass intending to flood the barren wastes of her facial cavity. It proved the wrong thing to do as water only makes straight horseradish all the more potent. Could she have done more to send the steam out through her ears? She doubted it and even though years had passed, even the mention of horseradish made her cringe. Trevor was insane if he liked the stuff.
"What's wrong, sweetie?" Ilene laughed. "You look like I just fed you peas and liverwurst. Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Porsche waved off her mother's concern. "I just don't like horseradish."
"What?" Ilene asked in surprise. "You used to love horsey sauce when you were a kid."
"Mom, horsey sauce with a horse crazed child and horseradish are two very different things." Porsche hurried out of the kitchen not wanting to explain her run-in to her mother.
(Photos belong to other websites.)
(Photos belong to other websites.)