Laura L. Enright's avatar image.

Author of both fiction and nonfiction books.

My name is Laura L. Enright, Author of the novels in the Chicago Vampires Series, as well as Chicago's Most Wanted and Vampires' Most Wanted.

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  • How do you exactly divvy up your writing into chapters?

    Laura L. Enright's avatar image.

    I think, Deborah, when deciding on chapters it's important to first understand the project you're working on and then trust your instincts on a reread.

    I know there are writers who will swear by small chapters. It's quick, makes the reading go quickly, keeps the readers interest. But I don't think that works with everything and sometimes a chapter break can seem a little intrusive in the stream of thought you're providing. I know I've found some as such when reading a book.

    If you have a light-hearted book, or a comedy, or even a thriller, then I think quick chapters are good. It gives it a page turner aspect (especially with the thrillers). I think quick chapters would work wonderfully with opinion books, or memoirs, perhaps even some straight nonfiction books depending on the subject.

    All books whether fiction or nonfiction rely on pacing to a certain extent, but there are books where pacing is really really important. Horror, for example. Building that tension can take time. And the tension can be broken if you stop for a new chapter thinking that perhaps the chapter you're working on is too long. That's where your gut has to step in. As you're writing, you will get a sense of the flow and how you want to control it. So chapters will seem natural to that. Like I say, there are some writers who will insist that "chapters have to be X amount of pages always..." and that might work for them. But I don't think it's good to limit yourself. I don't think we give the reader enough credit sometimes. If they're engrossed they'll stick with it.

    But once you're done with the book and you have a read through (in which you can concentrate completely on how the story flows) you may discover that a chapter break you have shouldn't be there or maybe a scene is going to long and maybe a chapter break would work. I had that with To Touch the Sun during the flashback that explained how Narain became a vampire. It's a fairly long section comprised of four or five different scenes that go towards the whole. In a novel like this in which you need to include an "origin story" you do have to have some info dumps and they can be tricky to work with. So after a read through and I saw how long this particular section was without a break, I decided to find a place to start a new chapter, even though it was a flashback, to break it up a bit. I had a similar situation in Ujaali with a flashback as well.

    That's why I say it's a little bit of knowing the project (and what you're hoping to put across) and a little bit of gut instinct after you've read the book through a few times.

    The nonfiction book I'm writing now will probably be changed a few times in regards to chapters. This is one where I'll probably have to do my best and then figure it out after it's written and switch around if necessary.