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Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Natalie here. Today I’ve got a great tip on strengthening your chapters by J. Curtis Mace. He’s the author of NALAMIST FALLS: SUPERNATURAL PREP SCHOOL FOR WITCHES, WEREWOLVES, AND VAMPIRES: KEEPING THE PEACE. Details of the giveaway are the end of the post.

So here’s J. Curtis.

Chaptering is something I’ve worked on a lot. I believe it is one of the most important aspects of writing, aside from Plot. The main objective to writing a book is having it read, from cover to cover. While not many readers will devour a book in one sitting, it is always the hope that it is difficult for them to put our book down. We want them to keep reading, and then they finally have to stop to eat/sleep/live in real life again, we want them just itching to get back to our story to see what happens next. Like I said, I've worked on this a lot, a LOT (I actually made changes to most of my chapter endings right before publication – I didn’t change the narrative as much; I just changed the place in the narrative where the chapter ended).

One piece of advice/criticism I got from a friend was that chapters shouldn’t end on scene changes; they should end on tension changes. That would be my advice to other writers, my Tuesday Tip. If the scene is over and everything is settled and the chapter ends, that’s a great place to put a book down (and go get a snack or go and live in the real world again). But if a scene is progressing and drama is building and then something completely unexpected/scary/pivotal happens or is revealed and then the chapter ends, a reader’s natural instinct is to keep reading. If they're fully invested in the story/characters and what is going on, they'll NEED to keep reading. I wanted most of my chapters (as many as I could) to end with a big, fat “Holy Crap!” moment, so the reader will start reading the next chapter just to see that everyone made it through alright. Having chapters end right in the middle of the climactic moment when all the questions in the reader’s head are just about to be answered is a good way to keep the pages turning. Smacking them in the face with an unexpected twist or confrontation that they know will lead to crazy places is another.

Tension is another important tool of writing. When you've brought a reader to a point where the tension is at it's highest and then you introduce something into the scene that could possibly break everything, that's the place to end the chapter. Keep the readers turning pages just to make sure the world you created for them is still there. And it makes for a fun and easy place to start the next chapter too.

You can find Curtis at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/jcmace11

J.Curtis is generously offering an e-book of KEEPING THE PEACE for a giveaway. Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Being a young werewolf in the Fifth Grade at a supernatural prep school comes with its own built-in drama. Angry witches and warlocks, pesky vampires, and new girls who know way too much about everything are all part of the norm; no need to go looking for trouble.

So, when the older group of vampire bullies is charged with stealing the witches’ most powerful book of spells, Rusty doesn’t get involved. Given all the torment and atomic wedgies, which vampires are particularly good at giving out, he’d rather leave the Bishop Boys to the comeuppance they deserve. But when he learns that the elder peace in Nalamist Falls actually hangs in the balance, he has no choice.

A species war will destroy Rusty’s world and all the relationship he’s made with his supernatural friends, his only friends really.

Wedgies or no, Rusty and his friends commit to doing whatever they can to keep the peace, even interfering in “grown-up” business that turns out to... More > be way bigger than any of them ever expected.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through November 2nd. I’ll announce the winner on November 4th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.

Hope to see you tomorrow when I’m interviewing my awesome critique partner Lori Sawicki, who recently self-published her MG contemporary story, THE POWER OF TWO. It’s a fantastic contemporary story about bullying and friendship. I loved the vivid, complex characters Lori created in Jamie and Pru.


Nicole Zoltack said...

That is a great tip. I try to do this with my chapter endings. You want to suck readers in and not want to stop. Just one more chapter...

Rachna Chhabria said...

This is a super tip. I like the idea of ending chapters on tension changes, this will ensure that readers don't put the book down.

Kristin Lenz said...

Good tip, interesting to think about, with different types of books and for different types of readers, kids vs adults. It's especially important for reluctant readers. But I prefer a mix of chapter endings. Once I'm invested in the story, I like some chapters to end without gripping tension, I need some natural breathing spaces in the story. I need to take a break, I need to reflect, I need to go to bed, and I need my daughter to go to bed too. It's a tricky balance. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your books. (No need to enter me in the giveaway today - my reading pile is out of control!)

Angela Brown said...

I love that tip and admit that is what many of the great TV shows are good at doing. Instead of ending clean, they end the episode on an OMG moment that makes the viewer want the week to scramble by so they can get to the next episode. Applying that same theory to chaptering is an excellent tip.

Emily R. King said...

Great tip! Those chapter breaks are always difficult to place.

Kim Van Sickler said...

The Hunger Games trilogy did this masterfully, I think.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Tension changes - check! I think I do that for the most part. (I don't divide my book into chapters until the very last thing.)

Lisa Gail Green said...

"chapters shouldn’t end on scene changes; they should end on tension changes." Love that advice!

S.P. Bowers said...

Great post. I never know when to put the chapter breaks. Thanks for the tips.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post! That's a great place to end chapters. It keeps the reader turning the pages, or clicking the e-reader buttons!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

haha, I love those 'holy crap!' moments in a book ;)

Carina Olsen said...

Awesome post! <3 This book sounds amazing as well. I would love to win a copy of it :) Thank you for the chance. <3

Mary Preston said...

I do love it when I get to the end of the chapter and feel compelled to continue on.

Unknown said...

Useful tip, and one I could see myself using.

Christina Lee said...

LOVE this tip, J. Curtis! I've definitely written dud chapter endings over the years, but I know I've got a good one when I've read it back and think, YES! ;-)