- End on a cliff hanger. This is probably my main criteria when working out where to end a chapter. I find a place where it’s hooking or interesting, and then I finish the scene on that note. I try not to cut the scene into two pieces, so that I have two random paragraphs hanging on into the start of the next chapter – but sometimes this is worth doing. Instead, I make sure the scene itself finishes in a hooking place.
- Pick a length. Nobody wants to read a chapter fifty pages long unless it is Harry Potter or Eragon. I typically aim for fifteen A4 pages double spaced on the computer. Then I try to end the chapter. Chapters that ramble on and on are just painful.
- Pick a point. It’s always helpful to think about what you want this particular chapter to add the plot. Does it add an action scene that moves the plot along? Does it add information? I normally finish the chapter with that scene and make sure the rest of the chapter sort of builds toward it.
- And I do it all in retrospect. This is going to sound odd, but I never write chapter by chapter. I write an entire novel without any chapter breaks at all. Then I go back and put chapter headings in. In retrospect, I force meaning onto the chaos of my work and shape each segment of the novel. It’s too much for me to focus on to do it at the same time as writing the book.
This is not to say this is the only way of dividing chapters. It’s simply one author’s perspective on a rather mysterious and shadowy element of writing a novel.