Dear Hanging In There…
You do want to push your readers into the next chapter. Make it hard for them to close the book and walk away. Or if they must close it and go to work or school or whatever, make your story stick in their head so they can’t wait to get back to it. But don’t think that means you need a cliff-hanger or flashy moment, like, “She walked into the room, and her mouth dropped in shock. What was he doing here?” or “She was on her way—and she was furious.” That’s mighty fun, of course, but ending every chapter that way will make the overall story feel melodramatic, or simply be too much of the same.
Two other ways to keep readers hooked are more subtle but equally grabby. 1: End the chapter with the character chewing a bone that we know they’ll have to spit out. It might be a question (“How am I supposed to do that?”) or maybe a statement of misgiving (“The vibe is all wrong. He’s lying to me, I know it.”). 2: Promise readers something big is coming even though the scene seems all buttoned up and happy-happy. Readers know that if it’s not the last page of the book, that happy bubble will go BOOM! For example, readers see you building up a character for a fall, but the character ends the chapter thinking, “Everything is perfect” or “What could go wrong?” Talk about jinxing yourself! That rug will be yanked out from under them, and your readers will want to be there for the delicious, crashing fall.
The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services. Learn more in her books: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies and Writing New Adult Fiction.