When I wrote my newest book (Sky Knight), I had a clear ending point with each chapter in an outline. It was a great tool to make sure I found my way from point A to point B. In my quest to write all twenty chapters, I discovered a neat trick to make sure your chapters are flawless and accomplish everything you set out to do.
Write each chapter as though they are standalone stories. If at the beginning of Chapter 2, your hero has found an unreadable treasure map and needs a cipher to help translate it, make sure by the end of this chapter you have found a clue to locating this cipher.
“Wait… that isn’t a standalone!” you say, feeling betrayed by this blogger. Yes, you’re correct; it isn’t, but it accomplishes the goal mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. The idea isn’t to finish the story arc in a chapter. The goal is to finish the subplot. Every chapter should have a subplot.
So after you find the clue at the end of Chapter 2, Chapter 3 opens with your hero searching for the clue. At the end of this chapter, you can either a) give them another clue, or b) give them the cipher.
Following this tactic, every chapter is useful and structurally sound.
Remember: the subplot doesn’t have to anything major. You don’t need to throw your character into a life or death situation and then have them escape. It could be something as simple as they couldn’t reach their friend on the phone but by the end of the chapter they find their friend at a coffee shop with a stranger. Extremely simple, but intriguing.
I found this technique to work pretty well. It leaves everything clean and organized. I’ll talk more about chapters in a later post. For now think about your own novel and if you’ve done this in the past. I guarantee that it does help with the writing process and with structuring.