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The Basics




This should be about how to advertise your story, right? WRONG. Yes, that is important, but it's far from the most important detail. Here's why:


  • Chapter length: Don't be that person who has 10 chapters and has yet to hit 3000 words. It may look like a lot on you smartphone screen, but those short chapters are sorely lacking in content. I used to say that 1000 words (4 pages, double spaced) should be a minimum in average chapter length, but I've waivered on that recently. Think about the last time you read a great book - how long were those chapters? I thought about this and decided to set a reasonable marker. Harry Potter (hey, it was aimed at 9-12 year olds, so you can't say I'm aiming too high). The first book had 320pgs and 17 chapters. That's roughly 4,550 words/chapter. Now, I'm not saying that is the ideal chapter length, but it sure does make 1000 words look pithy.

Each writer will differ on their ideal chapter length, but keep in mind that it will need to be long enough in order to adequately address these points:



  • Character development: No, pictures and names aren't enough. How are you going to introduce these people? Will it be gradual, and occur as the plot unfolds? Or will it be sudden, in a chapter devoted to the cast?


Don't forget that for a reader to get into a story, they have to feel the characters. They have to become real. That isn't accomplished through a picture. That comes with conveying their thoughts, their personalities, and describing them. Don't rely too heavily on pictures. Let your readers use their imaginations. Just give them some material to work with.


  • Dialogue: This is an art - and it can be learned. Think about your day to day interactions. How do you know someone is upset? Tense? Chances are you'll mention both their speech, their tone, speech volume, speech rate, and their body language. How do you know where someone is from/their culture? Listen to their speech. Idioms and slang differ dramatically, and can have a big impact on how believable your characters will sound.

This shouldn't be any different in a story.


  • Point of View: Is it third person? One of the characters?


Be consistent and make this clear.


  • Setting the scene: Umm. Where is everyone? What's going on around them? Note, those questions can't really be answered in two lines. To make a scene real, it needs to be interwoven throughout a chapter. That doesn't mean huge paragraphs. But if the characters are getting into the car, it might help to put in a line about how they are sitting, the area they are driving through, who turns on the radio, etc.

We don't live in vacuums. Neither should the characters in stories.


  • Plot development: This wasn't the first thing I listed, as it is important, but it's hard to attend to this if the previously mentioned details are neglected. Readers are much more likely to put up with a slowly developing plot or mistakes in the plot if they are invested in the characters and believe the interactions. Each person will vary how they pace the plot, but I suggest having an outline to begin with so that you are less likely to hit writer's block or run out of ideas.


Chapter End Notes:

Well, that's it for this chapter/issue of the series. Please comment and let me know if there is anything you want me to write more about and/or something you think I missed. I'd love to hear your feedback!

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