Writing Tip #109

Make your chapter endings count. A book club member recently commented that she enjoyed the ending of each chapter in Baby Grand: “They made me want to keep reading.” Yay, I thought, I’ve done my job. The way I see it, chapter endings should serve two functions:

  1. To end whatever scene is going on in the book at a logical place that feels satisfying to the reader — the plot has moved forward and the reader had learned something new.
  2. To keep the reader engaged enough to want to turn to the next chapter.

I’ve read books, particularly thrillers, with chapters that just seem to end willy nilly, as if the author took a knife and just randomly cut one big chapter into two. Perhaps the author thought some of his chapters were getting a bit too lengthy or unruly and needed to be shortened — thriller readers seem to like brief, tidy chapters. Still, to me it just seemed like a waste of a new chapter heading.

Chapter endings need to make sense, need to bring a scene to a close. They should make readers stick in their bookmarks and wonder, Hmmm, what will happen next? And if they’re really good, the reader will reopen the book to find out.

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9 thoughts on “Writing Tip #109

  1. I’m a sucker for “and that’s when it exploded” chapter endings. I’ve read too many silly books all the way through because of cliffhanger sentences like that. Let’s call it a guilty pleasure.

  2. Your chapter endings were wonderful in Baby Grand, I agree! I think about this all the time, and have divided and redivided and joined chapters many times in the history of each draft. Great post topic, so important.

    • Awww, thanks, Julia! And, yes, there’s a lot of playing around with chapter endings during the course of writing a novel, particularly mystery/thrillers. I, too, divided, subdivided, and reunited quite often. :)

  3. I haven’t read a good thriller in a long, long time. You’re right, about wanting to come back. Keep ’em wondering, that’s what I say. When I’m engrossed, I find myself placing the bookmark with delicate fingers, as if it has an effect. Then I close the book, look at the part that’s sticking out, the part that separates the rest of the story, and get excited. So many possibilities. And yet, really, only one.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I love what you wrote about the bookmark — I feel the same way! And, yes, a good thriller is such a fun read, but I too feel that many fall short, which is why I wanted to write one. :) Have you read the Dragon Tattoo series? LOVED that one. And I’m a big fan of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Thanks for stopping by!

      • I only read the first Girl book. I’m sorry to admit, I wasn’t a big fan. I haven’t really been blown out of my seat since I read Robert Ludlum but I can’t for the life of me remember which one. I remember a very young Kevin Costner played the lead and it was good. But the book? The book was out of this world. At least that’s how I remember it.

      • A little Google search and, lo and behold, I’ve combined unrelated works. I likely read a Ludlum book at the same time I saw a great movie with Kevin Costner. I have a strange memory. I was convinced Anna Karenina threw herself off the tracks on the last page of Tolstoy’s classic novel. My mother-n-law read the book a year or so ago and told me I was wrong, that she offs herself well before that. I’m not sure what to think of that.What we believe is true is so often not.

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