The cliff hanger

Do you round up your chapters or add a cliff hanger?

This was a question posed by someone using the #writingcommunity hashtag on Twitter. My answer is that I initially rounded up chapters until an editor made me stop.

Her reasoning was that if you round up your chapters into neatly self contained stories, then a reader can put down your novel and not rush to pick it up again.

Photographer: Steve Johnson. Image courtesy of StockSnap

This editor worked with me on my first novel.

Drama Queens with Love Scenes was initially self-published for three months until a small publisher offered to contract it. When it fell into the hands of my first editor, she picked up on what she saw as a major problem with the novel. So for three months I re-plotted and re-drafted each chapter to finish in a way that urged the reader to continue.

That’s how I’ve plotted my works ever since. The other advice I’ve used several times comes from screenwriter, Robert McKee, from his book, Story. He believes that if a scene ends on a high, the next should end on a low.  It instigates more emotional attachment from the reader.

I’m currently going through the long process of plotting a novel.

This has become a bizarre challenge as I play with six main characters and three separate love stories. I’m balancing these tales while finding ways to continue using cliff hangers that entice the reader into following one of the characters to the next chapter. Which means they are not necessarily continuing the story-line that dominated a particular scene.

Photographer: Suzy Hazelwood. Courtesy of StockSnap

Each chapter has been plotted with the subheadings:

  • Setting (where the chapter is set, and with whom)
  • Conflict (what’s driving the scene)
  • 90s features (as this novel is set in the 1990s, most chapters have something from that decade. But not always. That would be overkill)
  • Story (elements of the tale that have to be revealed)
  • Cliffhanger (what will entice the reader to the next chapter)

I’m in the default author mode of overthinking. I know.

In a way, I’m writing the plan of this novel in the same way I’d usually write the novel itself. I’m taking time to plot, revise, change parts of the plot, edit, and so on.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have a number of published works, so I’m experimenting with new processes in my storytelling. Taking it slower. Honing my craft.

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