Writing Your First Draft: Organizing Your Chapters

Hey There!

Now that summer break is here, I wanted to get back to blogging. I’m sorry for being gone for so long! To make it up to you, I’m working on a series focuses on my experience drafting your novel.

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If you’re interested, the last two posts in this category were on planning your story and basic story structure tips. This week’s post is about organizing your chapters.

1. Decide on your story structure.

You could split your story in two, or use the three-act structure like playwrights do. There are many choices available. Your story structure enables you to your thoughts into a sensible flow of information. This way, the climactic moment won’t happen in the first 100 pages.

2. Outline – Somehow

Once you’ve decided on your basic structure, it’s time to put it down on paper (or a note on your phone). I realize that outlining isn’t for everyone. When I’m really excited about writing, I can barely stand the outlining process. But it really does help you get your story into a good, logical order. Whether it’s a 30-page outline detailing every event, or a note on your phone listing 5 major events in their projected order, please outline a little. That way your main character won’t fall off a cliff in one chapter and be back in their bed in the next chapter. Unless, of course, that’s what you want.

3. Accomplish Something in Each Chapter

Whether it’s introducing a character, changing settings, inciting an important moment, or clearing up a huge miscommunication between characters, accomplish something in each chapter that adds to your story arch. For instance, a middle chapter to change settings or introduce characters from the second half of your novel.

4. Balance Description and Dialogue

Paragraph after paragraph of exposition can get kind of clunky. You can fix this by adding dialogue that works double. The dialogue can describe what’s happening in language your characters would use. As an example, instead of saying two characters are betting on a third to win a fight, one of the two could say something like, “My money’s on [insert character’s name].” The second could then narrate the fight a little; “Did you see that punch?!” Personally, I’m still working on my dialogue, but that’s a suggestion.

5. Decide How to End Each Chapter

Do you want to leave your readers with a cliffhanger? A sudden disclosure of information? A confession of unrequited love? Some people use the ‘roller coaster method.’ The Roller Coaster method ends some chapters on a high note (with something dramatic happening), and other chapters on a lower note. This method helps to pull your readers into the story.

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Here are a few questions to help you decide on content for your chapters:

-What happens in this chapter?

-What should happen in this chapter?

-Does this content advance the plot or further develop my characters in some way?

-Is this chapter necessary to my story?

-What would be the most effective way to start this chapter off?

-What happens to my main and supporting characters in this chapter/how do they change?

-How can I transition from this chapter to the next?

-Ending sentences?

I hope this post was helpful to you in organizing your chapters! Thank you all for being so patient with me while I balance work and blogging. If you enjoyed this content, please be sure to like and comment!

Chase those authorly dreams!

-Grace

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