What’s the best way to write each individual chapter of your novel? Or … is that the wrong question?
Dusty posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
I planned out every chapter of my novel but I can’t seem to make the magic happen.
I can’t seem to write the individual chapters.
What’s the best way to write chapters?
Randy sez: Planning is good, if you’re the kind of writer who needs planning. I would guess that half of all writers make a plan before they write, either by creating a synopsis or by using the Snowflake method or something similar. The other half just write.
I’m going to rephrase Dusty’s question, because the fundamental unit of fiction is NOT the chapter, it’s the scene. Chapters are not related to story structure. A chapter typically contains one or more scenes.
The scene is the important thing in writing fiction. Each scene needs to be its own story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When your reader finishes each scene, she should feel a sense of completion.
Dusty, it’s a little unclear what’s holding you back. I can think of two possible reasons, each with its own solution:
- It’s possible that you don’t understand scene structure. If that’s the case, then the easy fix is to learn what makes a scene work. Once you know the three essential elements each scene MUST have, it’s not hard to plan those out and then write the scene. Let me refer you to my article Writing the Perfect Scene, which explains in detail how to write a scene.
- It’s also possible that you’re overthinking things. Some people get so knotted up with anxiety that their first draft won’t be exactly right, they’re afraid to type a single word. If that’s the case for you, Dusty, then the easy fix is to take off your Editor’s hat and put on your Creator’s hat. When you wear the Creator’s hat, you get to be sloppy. Just type. Don’t edit. Slam out the words. You can always fix it later. In fact, you will fix it later when you take off the Creator’s hat and put on the Editor’s hat. It’s a lethal mistake to wear both hats at the same time. This is like driving your car pressing both the gas and the brake. Don’t do it!
Of course, there may be some other reason you’re having problems getting your scenes written, Dusty. I don’t have enough information, so I’ve given you a couple of guesses based on my experience in talking to thousands of writers over the years.
What do you think, Loyal Blog Readers? Is there something I may have missed? What might be holding Dusty back? What is a possible solution? Leave a comment here and we’ll see that our combined wisdom is better than just mine alone.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.