the-piece-that-doesnt-fitHaving considered the idea of moving chapters around we also need to consider that we might need to replace or remove chapters completely. The need to do this isn’t a sign of bad writing, just as not needing to add or remove chapters isn’t a sign of good writing. All it is about is making your story the best it can be.

Once again I would caught using a writing book to tell you which notes you need to hit. As I said the problem of the descriptions of narrative arcs is that they can either be very focused or very broad, so while it’s interesting and useful to know you’ll never find a book that tells you how to write your story because it’s not written by you. An obvious example would be that although an analysis of narrative arc might tell you the main points of a traditional arc it doesn’t tell you what goes in between them. So my character has met their mentor and next they should go off on a quest… what happens in-between? Presumably they get to know each other a bit: Do I need a lot of chapters dedicated to this? How should they get to know each other? Could a sub-plot help?

These are questions that book can’t really answer for you. You may finish your first draft and decide it really needs more time spent on the characters at the beginning, they and their relationship need fleshing out so you send them on some side quests where they learn more about each other and the world so you add some chapters. Alternatively you may decide that you’re writing a plot driven story that moves forward quickly so you cut out some of the early chapters, perhaps you even spread out some of the character moments from them into later chapters. Thus your story still has the same amount of character development but it’s spread out rather than collected. You might even go as far as deciding you spent too much time on character development and told too much rather than letting the reader discover it as they go which you would prefer so you cut out some of the early chapters and save the information for your notes rather than the book. If you wanted to you could even blend chapters together, making them longer or cutting bits out of chapters then blending them to make the pace move quicker.

Nobody can tell you these things from a book. You may have beta readers who offer suggestions after reading the book but that goes back to critiquing which is different from books. The only way to really work these things out is to try moving chapters, cutting and adding and seeing what happens, what sounds right for your story. Just remember to always save your alterations in case you what to revert to a different version or use bits from another draft.

That last bit might sound obvious to some but there are people who don’t save their drafts.


For more writing advice see my Advice Page or for more on narrative structure try Finding Your Voice.

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