Chapter Summaries – one of my favourite tips for writers

Following on from some of my previous tips for writers, both on this blog and my other blog

I would like to share with you one of my most useful and essential tips for anyone writing a long piece of work, such as a novel.

Most fiction is at least 70,000 words long and many are well over 100,000 words, particularly fantasy works. Trying to keep track of where a particular scene, argument, conversation or key piece of action is when you are well ahead of that event can be a logistical nightmare, and one that trying to find for referencing what you are currently writing will disrupt your flow and rhythm. If you are like me, that is more than irritating, it is just so darn annoying it gets me out of my writing mood completely.

The answer is there for all of us to use and it is a simple file called Chapter Summaries.

My Chapter Summary files are a list of bullet points of the key events in each chapter. For some chapters that is only 2 or 3 entries, for others it may be as many as ten, either way, keeping this up to date is an essential part of the writers’ art.

I usually write my Chapter Summaries on my first read through as soon as the First Draft is written and before the manuscript goes on its 2 to 3 month holiday in a drawer. That way, I get a quick scan of the book and while it is still fresh make some notes of things that need attention as I encounter them. This is not a full edit, but a scan of the pages to pick out the salient action and so on.

An example of Chapter Summaries for a whodunit murder can be as follows:-

Chapter 1 – Murder at Ten Lakes Ridge

  • ·         Pete splits with Angie and goes for a long drive
  • ·         A very upsetting phone call
  • ·         Strange footprints at the campsite
  • ·         Pete meets Fiona at the campsite, is this a coincidence?
  • ·         “Just who the hell do you think you are?”
  • ·         Flies and bugs at the tent down by the lake.

When you are editing chapter twenty and are 70,000 words past this point you may not be able to remember where Pete and Fiona met, was it Chapter 1 or 3? maybe 4 or 6, who knows. With Chapter Summaries you will be able to keep track of this information and this makes editing and cross referencing much easier and allows the writer to keep control of all those notes and thoughts (which are obviously written down in your book’s notebook that never leaves the desk where your computer is) as the process continues.

These and other TOP TIPS for writers can be found in my new book, The Handbook of TOP TIPS to Manage Your Writing now available on Amazon.


About purpleandrew

Andrew, recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome is a 54 year old former geologist always had short hair, suited & booted for work. That all changed when the credit crunch hit. Now a complimentary therapist, hospital radio presenter, and writer. Andrew writes crime thrillers, Young Adult, and fantasy books as well as blogging about writing and other stuff that he feels strongly about.
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