Examine Your Scene Arcs with Chapter Titles

I’m currently revising my latest middle grade novel and going through the exercise of dropping the chapters into a spreadsheet with columns labeled for chapter numbers, chapter description, setting, and a column for each major character where I place an “x” if the character appears in the chapter. This helps me find scenes more easily as I rewrite, relocate and restructure the chapters.

In some of my novels I title the chapters, but I hadn’t planned to in this one. Yet, for purposes of this exercise I thought it would further help me identify scenes more easily later on.

I’m realizing that when I’m forced to write a pithy title for each of my chapters, I’m creating a sound bite for a mini-story with a built in climax, cliff hanger and sequel. If I’m unable to focus the chapter title, it’s usually because my chapter strays too much from it’s purpose. If I can’t imagine a title, it’s perhaps because my chapter has no point or perhaps my scene has no internal climax. And finally, if my title is as dry as the description, perhaps the scene has no hook. When the title comes easily, I’m finding the scene has strength on its own.

I may keep the titles in the novel. I may not. But for now the exercise of titling is pointing me to chapters that need further work.

Give it a try!

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