Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Writing Tip: Make Sure Your Scene Endings Hook Your Readers

hooks, chapter endings, scene breaks, tension
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how you end each scene and/or chapter and make sure you’re giving readers a reason to turn the page.

A scene break or chapter ending is a natural place for readers to put down a book, and sometimes we write it that way without considering the downsides. Characters go to sleep, they leave for a journey, they settle in to wait—they at in ways that say “pause the story here” in some way.

But when we end a scene with something that must be known—readers keep on reading. Readers who can’t put a book down even when the scene is over or the chapter has ended are ones who are going to rave about your book the next day (while yawning from lack of sleep).

Look at the ending of your scenes and chapters. Do they end with something to keep readers reading? Not just the last line, but the situation or need in the novel itself? Is there something going on readers want to see? Need to know? Must read the outcome for?

If not, tweak, trim, or shift so the break happens in a spot readers won’t be able to stop on.

For more on handling scene endings in your novel, try these articles:


  1. Having just finished the first five scenes of my first novel, I found after reading the above my second scene didn't quite serve the scene that followed. Ha! Thanks for that!

    But this leads to a question: during the writing process, what overall review process AND HOW OFTEN do you recommend in terms of reviewing work in progress, scenes of course, but everything else like plot and character?

    Earlier in the year I purchased your plotting book which became instrumental to getting my plot ideas in order. For a newb it was an eye opener. It prompted me to pick up your Revising Your Novel book, as I figured there was so much craft that I DIDN'T know that I needed a road map to review.

    For me, I figured every 10 scenes I should stop, go back over the work, and methodically line edit, look at grammer, dialogue, etc. Eventually I'll find my own process but for now some informed opinions are welcome.


    1. As often as you need or want. If every 10 scenes feels good to you, stick with that, or adjust is as needed.

      I tend to write in three-chapter chunks, and focus on one act at a time until I like how it all works. Other writers have different processes.

      Try multiple things and you'll find the one that works best for you.