Monday, October 27, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting October 2014: Chapter Endings

The October COSCBWI Writer Meeting was all about chapter endings.  Writers spend so much time crafting perfect beginnings, but it's equally important to learn how to write engaging endings.  
Regional Advisor, Linda Miller, explained that there are many techniques writers can use to keep readers eagerly turning the page at every chapter ending.  Some of these methods include incorporating cliffhangers, revealing a secret, raising a question, and heightening the action.  It's important to avoid being a tease, though.  No reader wants to face a cliffhanger at the end of EVERY chapter, or have a big action scene constantly sliced in two.  (That's just mean!)  But on the flip side, wrapping up every chapter with a pretty little bow on top is just boring.  (And you don't want your reader ready to catch some zzz's at the end of each chapter!)  The trick is to balance the different tactics across your novel and think about which one complements each scene.  This is where critique partners and beta readers can come in handy, letting you know where they felt inclined to put the book down, and where they inhaled the story and read until 2:00 AM.  Finding the perfect balance can take practice, but it is well worth it to craft a winning manuscript!
Linda also talked about how chapters seem to be getting smaller and smaller all the time.  If you notice a chapter in your own manuscript that seems to be running long, you can spice things up by splitting the scene.  Likewise, if your chapter is too short, you may need to beef it up in order for the reader to feel fulfilled about the scene.  She recommends reading lots of books in your genre and age group to get a feel for common chapter lengths and chapter ending techniques.  What keeps you turning the page when you read a book?  Odds are, the same things that keep you engaged will keep your reader turning pages, too.
Following the presentation, Linda led a group critique where COSCBWI members brought in chapter endings from their own manuscripts.  After reading aloud each sample, we talked about which techniques the writer used and if they could make their ending even more engaging.  It definitely got the wheels of revision turning for everyone!
Lastly, Linda reminded everyone that there will be no COSCBWI Writer or Illustrator meeting at the Tremont Library in November.  Instead, members can take part in a field trip on November 2nd to the Columbus Museum of Art to see, "Imagine!  The Art of the Picture Book."  The exhibit ends in just a few weeks, so this will be one of the last chances to see it.  The tour begins at 1:00 PM.  This event is free and for members only.  Please email to RSVP or ask any questions.  
If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, please visit or "like" the group on Facebook.  I'll be at the museum exhibit this upcoming weekend and hope to see you there!

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