For most writers, they are awesome at knowing where to put their chapter breaks (and I’m including page breaks in this category too, they serve a similar purpose).
But there are somethings that I want to throw out there…
The first chapter is crucial. I would say that the first chapters are the most important in your book. As a reader, if the first page doesn’t hook me. Or the first chapter doesn’t make me want to keep reading. In real life, I stop reading. I wish I could tell you that I give books a second chance but as a general rule and a consumer, I don’t.
With samples online and browsing in book stores… I can even read that before buying. So I might not buy your book. Pay attention to the beginning. It’s important.
At the end of a chapter — with my beta reading clients I basically have a “form” to my feedback. One part of it is End of Chapter Questions, this part of my feedback is deceptively important. Some authors have commented on the importance of it but others really never say anything or let me know about those questions.
I include this portion because I want to make sure that I’m asking the right questions at the end of the chapter. This doesn’t mean that they have to be answered in the chapter. In fact, I recommend they aren’t — even though it can be torture for me as a reader, intrigue keeps us reading.
There are times when I only have one blaring question: What happens next? If that is the only question I have the end of the chapter it deserves another look. It isn’t a big deal if it’s part of the list because it means I’m excited but if it’s the only question I have it may be an issue. It might show that I don’t know where you’re going. Or the pacing is off for me and I’m bored.
In my opinion, I want to write a book that’s a page turner. The only way to keep those pages turning is if the reader wants to know what happens with story threads or relationships. I think that writers should strive to end their chapters with enough cliffhanger to keep me going.
If a scene is obviously over and nothing else should be added, I recommend sometimes that a page break is a better way to break up that part. Look for cliffhangers or moments of high emotion in your work. Those are great chapter breaks. Mid-scene chapter breaks are also especially brutal.
Chapter breaks are deceptive. They actually have a powerful impact on the pacing and immediacy of your story. They also effect how hard it is for the reader to walk away from the story.
Most readers, myself included, decide that they will read something to the end of a chapter. If you trick us into a cliffhanger — we love and hate you for it. It’s also a mistake that I will continue to make as a reader throughout the book.
Page breaks are easy to look over. They work as a nice lull in the story or to separate scenes. I encourage writers that want page turning action to their book to consider page breaks in places that won’t deliver on this chapter torture I’m describing.
Just because a scene ends gracefully doesn’t mean you have to end a chapter.
As a reader, chapter breaks are moments for me to put the book down and I tell myself I want to. As a writer, don’t let me.