Chapter Breaks

In all the creative writing classes I took in college, no one ever taught me something kind of important:

When to end a chapter.

Luckily, most of us who write read enough books that we wind up with an innate sense of chapter breaks. My rule of thumb is that each chapter should have a sense of a scene’s being over, plus a little unfinished business. It’s that unfinished business that will make the reader tell herself, “Just one more chapter” because she’s dying to know what happens next.

Of course, like everything else in writing, the only rule is that there are no rules. I offer William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as evidence.

If you’ve ever read As I Lay Dying, you can probably clearly recall getting to the chapter with only five words and feeling like Marty McFly being blown to the other side of the room by a giant, loud amp. Those five words, “My mother is a fish,” might be the biggest mic drop in twentieth century American literature.

Just one more reason, folks, why Faulkner is the man.


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