On your sleek desk sits a neat stack of papers—the first few pages of your book. You are on a roll, pounding away at the keyboard, flawlessly describing your main character, and beginning his/her story, but how do you know when to end the first chapter?
You can end the first chapter whenever you want to because you are the writer! You can make a chapter as long or as short as you want it to be, but if you are having a hard time figuring out the best time to end a chapter and start a new one, I generally go about it in two ways.
#1. If an event is meant to happen, it’s best to let it have its own chapter.
For a romance novel: If the two characters go out on a date, to let this event unfold completely in a single chapter, and when the date ends (with a goodnight kiss…or a bed), it is time to end the chapter, too. Then start the next chapter with the morning after their date (or intimacy).
If you are writing a thriller and there is a part with a lot of action, like an undercover sting or a gun fight, end the chapter when all the action ends and start the next chapter with what follows. For an undercover sting, the next chapter could be devoted to the interrogation(s).
#2. End a chapter with something shocking.
Does the main character have a secret? When you reveal what it is, end the chapter immediately. Ending a chapter this way guarantees that the reader will want to read the next chapter to find out what happens next.
On the other hand, a first chapter might not have as much excitement as a later chapter for it to end on a shocking note, but there are many ways to end it that’ll leave the reader wanting more.
TIP: Read the first chapter from several books similar to yours to see how the authors end them.
Sometimes you just have to listen to your instincts. Are they telling you to end the chapter? Great! Put the proper punctuation mark in place and follow the formatting instructions (from the previous blog) so you can start chapter two.
QUESTION: How is your novel progressing?