Welcome to our monthly Ask a Pub Pro feature where a publishing professional answers readers and writers' questions regarding the stories they love or their work in progress. This month, Stephanie Diaz, author of the Extraction series, joins us to answer questions on chapter breaks and unusual time periods.
We'd love to have you send in your questions for next month's column. Please send questions to AYAPLit AT gmail and put "Ask a Pub Pro Question" in the subject line. If your question is chosen, you'll get to include a link to your social media and a Tweet-sized blurb of your WIP.
Come on! Get those questions in!
Ask a Pub Pro with Stephanie DiazFrom Farida Mestek
My question about the book concerns chapters. My YA fantasy novel is divided into four more or less equal parts, each having its individual title, but there are no chapter breaks within the parts. How important are chapters in this particular genre and for this audience? Should I attempt to introduce them within the book even though I can't decide where to end one chapter and to start the next one or can I leave it like that?
Find Farida on Twitter at @FaridaMestek Stephanie answers
Chapters are helpful to readers because they allow for pauses in the book, places where the reader can take a breath or step away and easily come back. YA fantasies tend to be on the longer side, so not including chapters could make it hard for readers to get through the book. You don't necessarily need to have a new chapter every ten pages or even twenty, but I would recommend working some scene breaks into your novel, aside from the four parts. Look for the spots where scenes have a natural ending.
Check out some YA fantasies to get an idea of what scene breaks should read like, if you're unsure. The Shadow and Bone
series by Leigh Bardugo has some great examples.Anonymous asks
I'm writing an historical in a very unusual time period and am not sure it will be marketable. Is there any way to sort of test the market to find out if agents/editors/readers would even consider this time and setting?Stephanie answers
There isn't any way to test the market other than to query your work once it's finished and see what agents have to say. However, I would highly recommend finding critique partners to share your idea with and read your manuscript before you start shopping it, so you can get a sense of whether it will appeal to readers.
There are also some really wonderful agents and editors who occasionally have #AskAgent
Q&As on Twitter. Keep an eye on those hashtags, and you may be able to get an answer by running the time and setting of your book by someone in the industry.
About the Author:
Twenty-two-year-old Stephanie Diaz wrote her first novel, Extraction
, while studying film at San Diego State University. She is also the author of Rebellion
and the forthcoming Evolution
. When she isn't lost in books, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fangirling over TV shows. Visit her website at www.stephaniediazbooks.com
and follow her on twitter at @StephanieEDiaz
About the Book:
The uprising has begun. It's been seven days since Clementine and Logan, along with their allies, retreated into hiding on the Surface. The rebels may have won one battle against Commander Charlie, but the fight is far from finished. He has vowed to find a way to win—no matter the cost. Do the rebels have what it takes to defeat him and put an end to this war?
As Clementine and Logan enter a desperate race against time to defeat Commander Charlie—and attempt to weaken his power within his own ranks--they find themselves in a terrifying endgame that pits them against a brutal enemy, and each other. With every step, Clementine draws closer to losing Logan...and losing control of herself.
Continuing with the mesmerizing saga that started with Extraction
, Stephanie Diaz blends science fiction, epic romance, and heart-stopping adventure to create a world that no reader will soon forget.Amazon
-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers
The second season of Chapters, the reading series I curate for Girls Write Now, begins this Friday, March 25, when our delightful first guest, writer and mentor Emma Straub, reads from her new story collection, Other People We Married. Join us at 7 p.m. at the historic John Street Church (no affiliation).
Coming up: Anna North, America Pacifica, on April 29; Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow, on May 20; and Kate Christensen, The Astral, on June 17.
First off, Lacey was interviewed! Read her interview at Simon Hay's blog!
So I was reading this awesome post at QueryTracker about writing a synopsis and the section on chapters got me thinking.
I don't write in chapters. My brain doesn't understand them. Like, literally - I find it confusing how sometimes a chapter can take place over a period of three days, and another time a chapter ends in the middle of a scene and the next chapter picks up at the exact same place. I can't find the pattern.
I think in scenes and scene sequences - thanks to all my film and screenwriting education, I guess. My first ms is a dual narrative and for the most part each "chapter" is one complete scene or sequence.
H.L. Dyer says at QueryTracker, "Each chapter, like a novel, should have a beginning, middle, and an ending."
This makes sense to me, and I think this is true of my scenes and scene sequences, they are just generally too short to be considered a "typical" chapter. I'm also a fan of the short chapter in fiction, so maybe that says something about me and my writing.
As I'm in the planning stages of my next book, I'm finding the chapter issue interesting. This book will have one narrator and so switching chapters at the end of each scene doesn't quite work with how I want this book to be.
I don't outline, but I do make note of all the major scenes I know need to happen, as well as my beginning through to the inciting incident, and my ending. I'm fascinated by people who use chapter outlines, and know exactly what will be in each chapter when they sit down to write.
I don't know how they do this. But then I also tend to be more fluid with my scenes. I will switch them around and re-order them in order to best build tension, make motivations clear, and keep the story moving forward.
At this point, I feel certain that I will have to write first and separate into chapters later. I will probably but in chapter breaks in places where it feels right, but other than that I won't know where a chapter ends and the next one starts until I finish the story.
What about you? Do you know exactly what your chapters will entail? Do you think in chapters or scenes? Does anyone else split and number chapters after they've written the book? Am I crazy?
I was working on my WIP the other day, and became curious. So I tweeted a question. How long are your chapters? Well I got answers anywhere from 1000 to 5000 words. One person even pointed out some books that had chapters only a few words long.
The thing is, it depends. It depends on where the natural breaking point is. If we think of a chapter as a sort of mini-book we won't have to worry about things like length. How do we do that? Make sure it has a
- beginning (problem/point of change)
- middle (rising action/conflict)
- end (resolution/action to address the conflict)
Let's use an example. Because I know you love those. Plus I have to bring in the "paranormal" somewhere, right? Let's go with our ghost example from my filtering through character post. Remember? Ghost is haunting her ex-boyfriend (Erik) who is taking another girl to prom. In our fake chapter let's have our ghost try to ruin the evening by messing with the prom date (Heather) at dinner...
- Beginning: We start with the problem. Jealousy. Q: what's the first thing your character thinks or notices? A: The way Erik's hand rests on the small of Heather's back
- Middle: This is where the meat of the action/conflict takes place Q: What would my MC do to solve the problem? A: Manipulate objects like food and drink spilling on Heather to make her look bad. Tripping her. Maybe even pushing her at the last second so she bumps heads with Erik when he goes to kiss her
- End: Resolution. Q: What happens as a result of the MC's actions? A: Erik feels bad for Heather when she starts to cry, and tells her she looks good with spaghetti in her hair. Maybe he puts some on his own head to make her laugh and holds her head steady so he can carefully plant a kiss...
That works out well, no? A kiss after all that is a nice page turn. How long is this chapter? No idea. Probably pretty short (though honestly for me that's typical) but it really doesn't matter. What matters is it's a complete unit that's furthered both the overarching plot and character development. It has to be satisfying, yet make you want to keep reading. Piece of cake, right?
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|50 Book Pledge | Book #10: Winter by Adam Gopnik
Chapters is not just about books anymore. Canada’s biggest book retailer continues to embrace the lifestyle. And, in my opinion, they solidified their stance on Thursday, February 9, 2012 with Ashley Minnings’ spring/summer preview.
Part one of Minnings preview showcases merchandise ranging from dishes to stationary to decor. The scope of the merchandise Chapters plans to provide makes it abundantly clear that the lifestyle segment is not an experiment but a direction. Chapters has been widely criticised for their decision to veer away from books. Carolyn Wood, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Publishers, states, “If there’s fewer books, then there will be less potential readers.”
I can understand where the critics are coming from. If Chapters no longer focuses on books, that places the industry in a highly perilous position. However, Chapters didn’t have a choice in the matter. The failure to change with the industry would have very well spelled catastrophe. Let’s not forget the demise of Borders in the US or the local independents that have been forced to close their doors.
In fact, Chapters shift may end up being their saving grace. Yes, books aren’t front and center. There’s no denying that. But books by no means have vanished from either Chapters landscape or vocabulary. To say otherwise would be a gross exaggeration. Instead, they have positioned themselves perfectly because now they cater not only to readers but also to consumers.
I realize it’s not easy to digest your biggest ally shifting gears. But isn’t that better than losing your ally altogether? We’re quick to call Chapters shift abandonment when, in reality, it’s survival.
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