I'm putting together an editing plan for myself for my novel, and someone said something that made me think of chapters. For my first draft, I hadn't ever thought about chapters that much, only working on the writing itself. When I came to a natural break in the text, I would put a pound sign ( # ) to signal to myself that this would be a good place for a chapter to end/begin. Now I'm wondering when exactly I need to be thinking about where my chapters are.

Some info- the genre of my book is YA fantasy, and my word count is 81,600 words (roughly).

  • I kind of did what you did. I cut down half the chapters in editing. I'm not sure what the BEST answer is. There's a lot of general guidelines on lots of websites like masterclass.com/articles/… and medium.com/the-book-mechanic/…
    – DWKraus
    Sep 8, 2020 at 21:50
  • 1
    Can you elaborate on what is "a natural break in the text" for you?
    – Alexander
    Sep 8, 2020 at 21:50
  • @Alexander A natural break in text for me is when a scene changes, or when a major thing happens and I want to pause for suspense. Sep 9, 2020 at 0:22

2 Answers 2


Quick challenge: should you start thinking about chapters? It is entirely possible to write the entire book without any chapters (or, depending on your point of view, as a single chapter). To quote a literary great:

Life doesn't happen in chapters — at least, not regular ones. Nor do movies. Homer didn't write in chapters. I can see what their purpose is in children's books ("I'll read to the end of the chapter, and then you must go to sleep") but I'm blessed if I know what function they serve in books for adults.
Sir Terry Pratchett

Now, part of this comes down to your writing style: some people will start the story by writing out a list of events, and grouping them into chapters to write. Some people will just sit down and start typing, never knowing when the next scene break will be.

Furthermore, it also depends on the style of your story. A story set across a long period, with plenty of time-skips — for example, a cross-continental journey, consisting of large swathes of boring walking/riding interspersed with brief moments of intense action; a series of snapshots of a person's life from their birth, education, becoming famous, becoming infamous, and through to their eventual death; or an entire year of schooling — will lend itself well to being broken down into chapters. On the other hand, a continuous story which tracks the frantic few hours of a protagonist trapped in an unfortunate situation of scenario may benefit from not having any chapters, or even any time-skips/scene-breaks.

Consider also that in certain cases, the break between books wasn't even finalised until after several revisions of the story had been completed.

In short, I would suggest continuing to write as you currently are. Once you have your [first/next] (delete as appropriate) full draft of the book ready, read through it and decide if you need/want chapters. If so, then go through, and identify suitable chapter breaks, with the assistance of your hash-tags.


Chapters are part of the shape of a book, and they help govern the pacing. They also help readers break the book into manageable chunks -- most readers will wait until a chapter break before taking a rest from reading.

A chapter break should happen at a point where there is a logical break in the flow of the story -- a change in viewpoint, location, time, or focus. They should occur after something has been resolved (so the reader should feel a sense of satisfaction that progress is being made) but there also needs to be momentum to push the reader into the next chapter, otherwise you risk the reader putting the book down and never coming back. This could be a cliffhanger (but don't overdo this), but could just be that some new information has been revealed and the reader wants to understand how it fits in, or a character has decided to do something and the reader wants to learn how it works out.

Adding a chapter break slows the story down, gives the reader breathing space. This is especially important after action scenes, so this is a good place to put them.

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