Tag Archives: Chapter breaks

12.15: Pacing With Chapters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

What makes a chapter? WHY is a chapter? How do we chapter, and do we always chapter the same way? Should our chapters be this many parts of speech? This episode will answer these questions and more, except for that last question, to which the answer is “probably not.”

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Examine a book that made you keep turning its pages, and consider how it does that. Then look at a book you did not like, and consider how it nevertheless kept you reading it.

Jed and the Junkyard War, by Steven Bohls

Writing Excuses 10.32: How Do I Control the Speed of the Story?

As we said last week, we’re talking about pacing, and we’ve divided the concept into two parts. Last week we covered “sense of progress.” This week we’re talking about the passage of time. We discuss the tools we use, some of which are very mechanical (scene breaks, chapter breaks) and some of which are quite intricate, and require finesse to get right.

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Take something you’ve already written (a chapter with a few scenes would be perfect.) Change scene breaks to through-scenes. Then try moving the scene breaks around. See what happens to the pace of the story.

Seveneves: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron

Writing Excuses 8.50: Q&A with Mercedes Lackey

Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the stars align and serendipity is made manifest. And sometimes Mercedes Lackey happens to be hanging around at the same convention you’re recording podcasts at, and sits herself down to answer questions with you. Or rather with us.

Here are the questions. You’ll need to listen to the podcast for the answers:

  • (For Mercedes) How do you stay relevant through the numerous changes in the industry?
  • How do you go about creating a title for a project?
  • Is blending 1st-person and 3rd-person viewpoints cheating?
  • (For Howard) Should marketing research be done before launching an online story?
  • When, where, and how do you end chapters?
  • How can you tell if you’re overusing narrative language?
  • How should a young writer balance their writing time against other activities?
  • What are the parts of being an author that you hate (specifically the non-writing parts)?
  • (For Mercedes) What advice do you have for finding alpha & beta readers?
  • Is it distracting to write out a character’s accent?

 

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Eavesdrop on a conversation at the coffee shop, then go home and write the end of that conversation.

Bastion: Collegium Chronicles Book 5, by Mercedes Lackey, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Excuses 8.27: Chapter Breakdowns

What determines our chapter breaks? How do we handle POV shifts, scene-sequel balance, and other considerations when we’re carving our stories into chapters?

Dan starts with a discussion of the POV considerations in Fragments and in Ruins (from the Partials series,) and Brandon contrasts that with some of the epic fantasy methods. We argue the respective merits and pitfalls of rapid switching and large blocks, and then we talk about how the chapters take shape during our outlines and initial drafts.

Episode Trivia: This was the first episode we recorded at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, and was the first time in a year that the four of us had been together to record. So rusty!

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Outline a two-character plot arc, and then break it into chapters. Experiment with big blocks and little blocks of POV in this chapter-chopped outline, and consider how this will affect the arc.

Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska

Writing Excuses 8.15: Narrative Rhythm

We begin with an audio glitch and a jumbling of our usual intro. Why? Because it breaks rhythm, and sometimes you may actually want to do that.

Narrative rhythm is the pattern of story elements and associated structures that help drive the reader’s pace through a book. Consciously managed, narrative rhythm is a a critical pacing tool, but can also be used to point up important information, increase the impact of certain scenes, and even encourage the reader to take a breather.

We talk about examples from film (it’s not the same thing, but it’s easy to make the point this way), as well as examples from our own work. Scenes and sequels, chapter breaks, cliffhangers, and more all come in to play here.  And of course you, fair listener, want to know how to manage narrative rhythm, and we cover some tips and tricks for that, too. 

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Re-write a classic fairy-tale, first with nothing but rising action, and then with the addition of some falling action.