The word chapter may refer to a main division in a book or document, a period of time or an episode in a person’s life, or the local branch of an organization.
In novels, a chapter may be any length, but averages three to five interrelated scenes. Some writers make their first chapters shorter in order to engage the reader, then use longer chapters later in the book when the reader is already hooked.
Writers that are “plotters,” often have their chapters lined up before putting the first word on paper. They have outlines, or index cards, or sticky notes telling exactly whose point of view the chapter will be in, and what that character’s goal, motivation, and conflict will be.
Other writers, “pantsers,” fly by the seat of their pants and let their character tell them where the story is going.
In the real world, you can plot, or choose, many chapters in your life. You might choose where you’ll go to school, what job to take, or who to marry. You can choose to move to a new city or to take up sky-diving.
But like even the most dedicated plotter, sometimes your story has a mind of its own. You might be going about your business when a new chapter jumps out at you and says, “Surprise, here I am. Now deal with me.”
As a writer, you can go with the flow and see where your characters take you, or force them back where you want them to be. In real life you don’t have that choice. It is what it is, and you can make the best of it or go crawl in a hole.
A friend recently told me her mantra was, “Life is hard, have a cookie.” So here’s to cookies in all shapes and sizes and in every flavor. Find the one that works for you and eat as many as you need until you make it to a better chapter.
I send a special “Thank you,” for all the kind words and support on the death of my husband. It truly warms my heart to realize how many thoughtful people there are in this world.
Follow Susan at www.susancmuller.com