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Dropped in the Middle

One of our authors, Jeffrey C. Jacobs has written a piece on writing chapter summaries. You can read the original article here.

Sometimes what you need from a critique is just a middle chapter. We can help you, but we do need some context. For instance, why is Character A trying to talk to Character B. It helps us understand their interaction better when A and B are chatting because of something that happened in a previous chapter.

This is why chapter summaries are critical. Chapter summaries give us a sense of what has come before, what your characters have already experienced, and what they expect to have happen to them in the current scenes.

What’s more, when you start trying to sell your manuscript, agents and publishers will expect not just the first few pages, but also one or two word sentences that describe the major plot points for each of your chapters. Writing chapter summaries will help you with this. It’s excellent practice.

Also, if your work is part of a larger book series, you don’t per se need to give us what happened in prior books—you should expect people will pick up book 4 without having read 1–3 on a whim and that book should be just as good an entry as the three prior books.

However, what your summaries must convey is any information from the previous books that were conveyed in previous chapters. For instance, say Character A learned necromancy in Book 2. In book 4, we don’t need to know about that until Chapter 3, but if we start on chapter 14, and 14 assumes you know about the necromancy, which was restated in Chapter 3, then the Chapter 3 Summary should include this information. No need to give away the entire plot of Book 2, but if necromancy is important, that should be in your summary.

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