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How to plan a chapter

There’s a joke that goes something like this:

Q: ‘How do you eat a whale?’
A: ‘One bite at a time.’

Writing, especially something as long and complicated as a novel can often feel like you’ve been presented with an orca on your plate when you only really have the appetite for a fish finger sandwich. Writing a novel is a huge task to undertake, and when seen as a whole can feel intimating and overwhelming. But if, as the joke states, you take on the task one ‘bite’ at a time, even if yours is the most ambitious of novels, it will eventually get completed.

With this in mind take a piece of A4 paper and draw a circle on it. This is now your first chapter. Next divide that circle into three equal parts. These are three points in your chapter, the beginning, the middle and the end. Give the beginning and end of each third a number. (So your first third will start one and go to two, the second, from three to four and so on). Now write down on your circle where you want your main protagonist to be or what you want to have happened at each point. Now you have an outline for your opening chapter.

Feel free to add more detail to your circle if you want, or divide it further if you feel the need. The point of the exercise is to stick a few flags in the sand and help you visualise the shape of your chapter and the think about the events that need to happen to move your character from one point to the next.

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