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Chapter book plot outline

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Does anyone have a 'plot outline' for chapter books for me to look at? Similar to the '12 spread template' for picture books that helps you plot on which spreads a character should be introduced, or where the inciting incident occurs etc?

I know that chapter books tend to be (roughly) 20 chapters of 500 words each so the inciting incident probably needs to occur by the end of the second chapter but is there a rule of thumb for the confrontation to kick in by chapter 5, the realisation as to what is needed to hit by chapter 10, crisis by chapter 12 and so on and so forth? Anything that will help me plot the story against the chapter numbers would be useful as a compass. Thank you.
#1 - January 09, 2022, 08:11 AM

Hi Abby!

Are you familiar with the Save The Cat beat sheet (savethecat.com)? If not, wow, I hope you enjoy digging into this great resource! If so, then you may be familiar with the Beat Sheet and how it maps out where major story beats should land in a manuscript. In fact, the Save The Cat creators even made a handy little tool to help with that.

Down the right side of the Save the Cat website's homepage, there is the SAVE THE CAT! BEAT MAPPER. Consider plugging in a standard chapter book page count (or even word count) to get an idea of where these major story beats might land in your book and how that could inform your chapters.

I hope this is helpful!

All that said, I really do think that stories are unique in following their own pace and rhythm. So while there are tools like this and other templates to guide you, "best practices" are only best until something better comes along. Follow what's natural for your story.

Best of luck! I hope your story is coming along well!

D.W. Hudson
#2 - February 03, 2022, 12:26 PM
« Last Edit: February 03, 2022, 12:30 PM by D.W. Hudson »
D.W. Hudson
dwhudson.com

I can't help with a template but I just want to say that as an editor, in my experience chapter books can have considerably fewer than 20 chapters. I wouldn't assume that's a standard length.
#3 - February 04, 2022, 06:46 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

I just checked several on my shelves, and they had between 8-13 chapters. These were full-length chapter books. Early chapter books would have even fewer chapters...
#4 - February 04, 2022, 06:49 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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I've actually gone through my kids' books to see because CB aren't as fixed as # PB spreads.   I think that is the problem... there isn't one "shape" or # of chapters or words per chapter. So I pick one or one series and use it as the mentor for mentor for that project.
#5 - February 05, 2022, 06:12 AM

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Abby, here's an excellent thread about outlining--use whatever bits help: https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=33231.0
#6 - February 05, 2022, 01:31 PM
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