Karen Brichoux

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"Draws the reader into the story and never lets go." --RT Bookclub
"Brichoux reminds the reader how powerfully the landscape of 'home' can define a person." -- High Country News
Previously Released
"An exceptional novel." --Melissa Senate, author of The Solomon Sisters Wise Up
"A coup. Warm, smart, and original." --Kirkus Reviews


Breaking It Up (Or How Are Chapters Made?)

November 3, 2004

November 2004 Newsletter from the desk of Karen Brichoux


*Article: “Breaking It Up (Or How Are Chapters Made?)”
*What I’m Reading


*Contest winner: Congratulations to Sanjay, who won a signed first-edition copy of SEPARATION ANXIETY!

*Talk a lot: The NAL authors are working hard to make the NAL bulletin boards a great place to be. Not only is there an on-going serial novel, but starting at the end of November there will be a drawing for signed books, donated by the authors, from among readers who register to use the boards, *and post* to the boards. If that isn’t enough incentive to sign up and add your two cents, there’s also scintillating conversation about pets, books, and writing, as well as a “book of the week” feature where readers can hold email conversations with specific authors and even a weekly Friday-afternoon discussion between NAL editor Kerry Donovan and a NAL author. Stop by and register at http://nalauthors.com/forums/

*If you’re a romance fan, NAL is announcing a contest where three winners will receive three NAL Eclipse books every month for a year. Click http://nalauthors.com/content.php?id=1 for details.

Article: “Breaking It Up (Or How Are Chapters Made?)”

Marie asked:
"How do you decide when to end a chapter and begin a new one?"

This is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked because the answer is: I don’t know. Some of it is instinct, some of it is page count, and some of it has to do with being a theater major for a few years.

Popular wisdom says that every chapter should end with a cliff-hanger so that the reader will be forced to keep going. I find hanging from cliffs annoying and dangerous. And while I certainly did keep reading into the next chapter of a favorite Hardy-Boys mystery when Joe or Frank had just been knocked out (again--those boys must have had some kind of permanent brain damage post-twenty-one-years of age), as an adult I find the cliff hangers contrived. Maybe I’m jaded. I like a chapter to end when a scene ends. Or to end at a point where I, the hero, and the reader need to stop and take a breath. So, just as when you’re doing jumping-jacks and have reached that instinctive “if I don’t stop and rest I’m gonna keel over” moment, I know when I need to insert a chapter break.

I have a page count going in my head, too. I like the chapters of my drafts to be about twelve manuscript pages long. The chapters in a revision will be around fourteen to sixteen pages long. That seems a proper pace to me. Enough space for a solid scene or two, and yet short enough to keep the book going at a good clip. But if a chapter comes in at nine manuscript pages in a draft, I won’t hesitate to end it.

Theater has definitely played a part, too. If the manuscript is at a place where a different character is going to step onto the stage, a new idea is going to be expressed, time has passed...that is where I will start a new chapter.

So, instinct, page count, and Shakespeare. If all else fails, blame the Bard.

Happy November!

What I’m Reading:

HMS SURPRISE by Patrick O’Brian
LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT by Elizabeth Malin (this book will be available fall of 2005--I got an advance copy!)
THE CLUB DUMAS by Arturo Perez-Reverte