When we read well-written or traditionally published books, what are the things we notice most? We notice the crisp flow of the writing, the unique style and tone of the words. We notice the perfect flow; the way the story unfolds so effortlessly. And we notice the A-grade content, a plot that is wonderfully woven; perfectly paced.
There’s a reason these works were selected by agents and publishing houses, and despite the sour part of your brain trying to convince you otherwise, it’s not because they ‘knew the right people’.
These works were selected because they’re a fine example of literary brilliance, a showcase of hours of dedication; a display of a craft, long practiced and often refined, at work for all to see. So don’t be sour. Published writers are chosen because they’re talented and worked hard to develop their talents – nothing more and nothing less.
There’s one thing in particular that all great published writers do that we’re going to discuss in further detail. And that particular thing is writing perfect chapter endings. You know the type – the ones that leave you panting, eager for more; breathless, with tears brimming in your eyes.
Strong chapter endings are a key part of great fiction. They always have been; they always will be.
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What Makes A Chapter Ending Great?
There are many things that could constitute to the greatness of a chapter ending. Though in most cases, the delivery is the thing that seals the deal.
Try this: pick up a book, any fictional book lying nearby (if you’re reading this, and don’t have a fictional book nearby, just know that I’m a little disappointed in you…) and flick through some of the chapter endings. Then, after you’ve done that for a few minutes, ask yourself what you see. What are the common themes? What do they all share?
Do this with a few different books, from different genres, and compare your results.
What you will find is this: most of the chapter endings you read will be delivered in an elegant way; well-written in the type of way chapter endings usually are. They contain metaphor quite often, or let those shocking reveals loose, or tug on the heartstrings of the reader.
The best part about great chapter endings is that they can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. One thing’s for sure though, they all do one of the three things mentioned above, and that’s what makes them notable.
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How Do I Know When To Implement Them?
Now this is the hard part.
One of the hardest things about writing a book is knowing how and when to end your chapters. Drag them on too long, and the reader will become bored. Leave them too short, and the reader will feel cheated and left behind a little, as if they don’t understand the story.
It’s important to practice the art of perfect pacing, especially when it comes to ending your chapters. A general rule of thumb is to decide on a maximum and minimum chapter length (in terms of word count,) and make sure all your chapters fit that bracket.
You could choose your word counts based on genre (as there are estimated guidelines based on the genre you write in,) or based on your personal preference. Though, whichever way you choose to decide, always make sure the pacing and flow are both spot on when it comes to editing your manuscript.
To simplify it even further, think of it like this: if it feels too short and as though it lacks substance – flesh it out. If it feels too long, and as if it’s dragging out way too long – trim it down. Try to find that balance. Decide the length of your chapters based on the chapter’s intended meaning in terms of the grand scheme of your plot, and make an informed decision based on how it currently fits that vision.
Tackle it this way, and you can’t really go wrong.
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Practice Makes Perfect
Or at least gets you somewhere close.
You aren’t going to nail chapter endings right away, but that’s the beauty of the rough draft. Or rather, draft(s). Use your rewrites to work on the shape of your chapters, and decide if their length is suitable to fit their purpose as you write. From there, you can work on the endings of them, safe in the knowledge that you’re ending them in the right place at the right time.
Think of it like this: if your chapter ending doesn’t make your reader want to dive right into the following chapter, it needs to be made stronger. Round your chapters off with this in mind, and you’re well on your way to some wonderfully engaging endings.
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