12.15: Pacing With Chapters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

What makes a chapter? WHY is a chapter? How do we chapter, and do we always chapter the same way? Should our chapters be this many parts of speech? This episode will answer these questions and more, except for that last question, to which the answer is “probably not.”

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Examine a book that made you keep turning its pages, and consider how it does that. Then look at a book you did not like, and consider how it nevertheless kept you reading it.

Jed and the Junkyard War, by Steven Bohls

8 thoughts on “12.15: Pacing With Chapters”

  1. Mary’s first comment was an aha! moment for me because I’ve been doing that! Now to figure out how to fix it.

  2. So ultimately, the ideal place to break your chapters depends on what you’re trying to accomplish within the book and/or chapter.

    I appreciate that distinction. So many writing blogs advise ending every chapter with a cliffhanger, forcing the reader to turn page after page until the book is over. And while I’ve sometimes enjoyed that sort of pacing, I’ve also read books where it backfired.

    One of my favorite authors went from writing shorter novels (where he used breakneck pacing to good effect) to longer works. His pacing hasn’t changed much, however, and–despite loving his characters, humor, and worldbuilding–I’m reluctant to pick up one of his new books unless I can devote an entire day or more to it. I don’t often read an author I love, simply because finding a natural resting spot in his books is difficult.

    Which is further confirmation of the importance of getting it right… Right? ;)

  3. Hey, it’s Chic Team week! That means Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley! Kicking around scenes and chapters. The magical secrets of scenes and chapters, known only to members of the Real Authors Club (secret handshake, please?). Between intermissions, video game racing games, and plain old hooks, breaks, and pacing, the foursome mix it up, talking about how scenes and chapters play together, and sometimes don’t! So, don’t waste time, read all about it in the transcript, available in the archives and over here


    And remember, slowly we turned, step-by-step, with the monster just around the corner, and … keep the reader turning those pages!

  4. Hey Howard thanks for your reply, it was timely because I just got another beta reader with a different opinion. I am now working with the assumption that they can all tell something is off but don’t know what. I’m guessing character.

    I have a question, all the pros say to start working on another book while the first settles. My book would ideally be part of a series, so should I write the sequel or should I write a book that could stand on its own? I can think of pros and cons to both.

    1. Write what you’re excited about. If that doesn’t narrow it down enough, pick the exciting thing that is also the furthest from your comfort zone. That can maximize the beneficial effects of practicing-by-doing.

      Commercial aspects to the question aren’t relevant until an agent, editor, or mob of Amazon readers weigh in with an opinion which is backed by thrown money. :-)

  5. My favorite instance of pacing with chapters is in The Name of the Wind, when Kvothe plays in the Eolian for his Talent Pipes. He plays and the chapter ends. The next chapter is, what, one page long? One and a half, maybe? And the entire thing is just him waiting for the crowds response and his inner turmoil and doubts and fears… And then the crowd breaks into applause and a new chapter begins. I had always loved this scene, but until listening to this episode, I hadn’t thought of it as an example of pacing before. And it’s a good one.

    Also, thanks for the podcast, y’all. I wish the episodes were longer, but after each one ends it makes me want to write more and never fails to give me ways to better view the flaws and merits of my writing.

  6. May I ask Brandon a question? Why was the Last Battle chapter from aMoL so long, instead of being broken up into several chapters? Did you have to violate your own rules for chapter-izing?

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