Wednesday 16 February 2022

What is a chapter?

 Book, Table, Read, Knowledge, Wisdom

There was a recently a discussion in one of my Facebook groups about chapters; what should be their ideal length and how do you form them.  


I maintain that a chapter needs to be as long as it needs to be and this will vary according to writer and text. There is a perception that in a given work all chapters should be of a similar length. Again, though, if one chapter needs to be much shorter or longer than the others in a given work so be it.

As a reader, I favour short chapters. I’m currently reading Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club where the chapters are delightfully short. This keeps the pace going. The latest chapter I’ve read is unusually long: Chapter 100, eight and half pages. The average length is two pages. This longer chapter contains an important and dramatic plot point.

I’ve reviewed a series of YA fantasy books. Each volume would make a good doorstop. But you keep on reading because the chapters are short. The fantasy world impinges on the normal world and alternate chapters take you into these two realities. This makes the book very readable

My own chapters tend to be between 1500 and 2500 words i.e. seven to ten pages long.

Chapter shape

My theory is that each chapter should contain a plot point, or maybe several if there are sub plots as well but only one point for each plot.

There should also be an arc within each chapter, similar to a story arc.

However, often at the end instead of a resolution, there is a cliff hanger. I’ve been told recently that I do this well and I actually find it quite easy to do. That keeps the reader reading.

It is fine as well to have scene breaks within the chapter. A scene break occurs when you move to another time or place. It can be a change of point of view though this can be disconcerting for the reader if it happens mid chapter.  

How I go about it

Indeed, my chapters are my plot points and I use a brief description of the plot point in the chapter heading in my working document. These are deleted in the final edit.

For reach chapter I plan my arc:

Opening scene

Three or so complexities

A dramatic, point of no return, scene

Some sort of response to the new threat

Cliff hanger

These constitute the scenes within each chapter. For each scene, I create about three mini plot points.

I am a planner and I find that going into this amount of detail in the plans makes the writing easy. However, I still find as I write new turns and twists pop into the action.

Overall length and number of chapters

I write historical fiction for women and science fiction for young adults.  I find in both cases that my novels are averaging 80,000 words and thirty-two chapters.                      

Monday 7 February 2022

News 7 February 2022

 Video Conference, Webinar, Digitization

I’ve now had the routine surgery I mentioned in my last newsletter and all is well. I’m now enjoying a bit of a rest but the ideas are flowing. 

I was in a big teaching hospital and it was good to see a few student nurses from Salford University there.

Current writing

I’ve now started on the sixth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This is Helga’s story. Helga is a Holocaust survivor and the story is set partly in World War II and partly in 2001. The more modern part is set in North Wales and I have to learn about sheep farming in Wales!   

I have a couple more articles in Talking About My Generation:

Little Talking Boxes discusses what the new normal may look like and how we might extend some of our use of online meetings once the pandemic finally leaves us.

The Lancashire Author’s Association’s Collection has a New Home  describes the collection and its move from Accrington Library to the University of Bolton.  This is possibly the largest collection of regional literature in the country and is important.   


The Young Person’s Library

Alas, no new books added this month. Come on The Hive.

I really recommend this lovely online shop that supports indie bookshops and delivers promptly.   

Please can you make some more recommendations in children’s books?


 Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending today Christmas Stories: 32 Classic Stories and Poems for the Young &  Old

This was given to me by a friend who knows that I love a good Christmas story. This doesn’t disappoint and here are many well-known classics in there.  It includes works by:

  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Hans Christian Andersen
  • Katharine Lee Bates
  • Frank L. Baum
  • Frances Browne
  • Lewis Carroll
  • J. Stirling Coyne
  • Charles Dickens
  • O. Henry
  • William Dean Howells
  • Stephen Leacock
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • L.M. Montgomery
  • Clement Clarke Moore
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Brothers Grimm
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Henry van Dyke
  • Anne Hollingsworth Wharton

Publisher and editor are mysteries. It has been put together thoughtfully yet there is no mention of the rationale. Never the less a pleasing compilation

Grab your copy here. 




Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.

This month I’m offering my Babel, the second story in the Peace Child series.

Kaleem has found his father and soon finds the love of his life, Rozia Laurence, but he is still not comfortable with his role as Peace Child. He also has to face some of the less palatable truths about his home planet: it is blighted by the existence of the Z Zone, a place where poorer people live outside of society, and by switch-off, compulsory euthanasia for a healthy but aging population, including his mentor, Razjosh. The Babel Tower still haunts him, but it begins to make sense as he uncovers more of the truth about his past and how it is connected with the problems in the Z Zone. Kaleem knows he can and must make a difference, but at what personal cost?

Find out more.  Grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

I’ve added two posts this month. One is about how ghettos are created, something I realised as quite a young child: Create a Ghetto or Share a Few Gems

I’ve also added a post about beginning my new novel in the cycle: Creating Helga



Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.


Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     


Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.


The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   


Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  


Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.


A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   


The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   


CaféLit Stories Find these here


Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.


Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.


The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.


Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     


Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.