Tips For How to End a Chapter

Filed in Writing Tips by on April 30, 2020 0 Comments

By beginning and ending them in the perfect moments of your story, your chapter breaks can build suspense and keep your readers reading. Try these tips f...

At some point in writing your manuscript you’ll be faced with the decision of where you want your chapter breaks to go. How you end your chapter is especially important in a novel. By beginning and ending them in the perfect moments of your story, your chapter breaks can build suspense and keep your readers reading. For some, deciding where chapters end might be a challenging decision. Whether this is you or not, these next few tips for ending chapters are sure to be helpful for your next writing session:

Don’t Include Chapters In Your Outline.

A lot of writers might make chaptering part of their book outline. This method can actually become quite constrictive. For more effectiveness, try writing first and evaluating your story for chapter breaks second. If you feel your preferred writing method includes more structure, try outlining by events instead of chapters. You should leave giving thoughts to chapter structure for after you’ve begun to actually write your manuscript.

If you come to a point in writing your novel where a chapter break just jumps out at you, mark it and move along with your writing. Try using a unique symbol so when your draft is done you can use the ‘Find’ function to search and go through them to decide if these are truly the best chapter breaks. You might find a lot of them can remain as scene breaks and be replaced with a transitional paragraph. 

Insert A Graceful Cliffhanger

You don’t want to end most chapters with cliffhangers. It’ll become predictable to the reader and take the suspense effect away. It needs to be an intrinsic part of the overall story, not just techniques inserted for effect.

Here’s an example of a possible end to a chapter:

Amy’s normally rosy face was the color of putty. “There’s something I need to tell you.” Her eyes were fixed on the floor. “Something you don’t know about me.”

When Your Story Requires a Shift

A chapter break is good to add when your story requires a change of time, place, or point of view.

For example,

End of a chapter:

She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her damp jacket and took one last squinting look up at the foggy Moroccan sky. “We’re done here,” she told Harry. “Let’s get to the airport.”

Beginning of next chapter: 

Colorado. Cool, misty, green. A different colored sky than the brass she was used to…

A chapter break like this emphasizes there’s been a significant change of some kind. It pulls at your reader’s mind, telling them it’s time for a reorientation. This type of chapter transitioning can refresh the reader’s eye after a long interlude in one setting. They allow for continuity and pacing — an essential for balancing suspense to your story. 

Check For Effectiveness

Your goal as a writer should be to keep your reader up at night because they don’t want to put your book down. If the reader told themself they’d only read three chapters that night you should want them to end up reading eight! And that is the exact point of a chapter’s end: to make you unable to resist turning the page to start the next one.

Here’s a way to check your chapters for effectiveness: Pretend you didn’t write your manuscript and flip to the end of any chapter. Now read the last line. Even if totally out of context, would you turn the page? If not, try tweaking a thing or two.

Have any helpful tips for chaptering? Comment them below! And don’t forget to share this blog post if you enjoyed it. 

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