How to prepare to write Chapter Summaries

When I did research about book agents, I also did research on book proposals and what the agents look for.

Most agents look for:

  • Your quary letter
  • Table of Contents
  • The Overview of your book proposal
  • Competing books in your genre (especially current ones. Do people read your topic?)
  • Information about your title (show that you did research)
  • About the author (that would be you)
  • Chapter summaries
  • Sample Chapter
  • Any art (my additional point since I love adding drawings to my novels)

The focus of this blog post is chapter summaries.

One may forget to write one paragraph summary for each chapter because one may focus too much on characters, plot, flow, and English (or whatever language you write in). It is easy to forget about chapter summaries. However, if you have not done chapter summaries for your novels yet, start doing them now.

It’s important to have chapter summaries for several reasons:

  • Characters:
    • Easy to track who appears in each chapter and if you’re missing a key character
  • Sections
    • Allows you to create sections in your novels, say you have ten chapter summaries and in those chapters everything happens on Earth and then chapter 11 shows your character on Mars. This may be a good time to create a title section page so the reader would understand something is different.
  • Time frame
    • Does day one pass in your chapter or day one moves on to chapter 2.
    • Helps you create your own timeline that you can keep as a separate document for reference
    • Do several days pass in one chapter?
      • Does that make your chapter too long?
      • Are you missing key variables?
      • Do you have too many sections that don’t feel finished?
      • Too many cliffhangers?
  • Cliffhangers
    • Does each chapter end on cliffhanger?
    • Do you need those cliffhangers?
    • Maybe you need a different ending?
  • Flow
    • Does it make sense what your character is doing or saying?
    • Does it make sense to have an event that happens in chapter 7 when it should have been in chapter 4?
      • If the answer is yes, don’t freak out. It’s a good thing. You came up with a good event and by timeline it would make more sense to have it earlier on. That’s okay. Sure, you will need to rewrite a lot, but your readers will thank you for the flow.
  • Lead into next book of your series
    • Helps you keep track of what already happened and keep track of your characters
    • Does the final ending makes sense?

Now an example from my unpublished novel (I am not going to share all my chapters,  but here’s a glimpse into my mafia world)

Table of Contents and notes about major events

Chapter 1: Halo and Horns

  • August 21 Monday
  • First day of classes
  • Meet roommate, Laura, friend, Jack
  • Learns about Mafia

Chapter 2: Bumping into Reality

  • August 22 Tuesday 
  • Reading the newspaper: Swingers: Inside the Secret World of President Jones and his ‘Couples.’
  • Bumping into Rayne, TJ, and Jem

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: Halo and Horns

Whatever the reason behind being at M’Heart University for Angel Svobodina proves to be, the quiet life of a freshman, disappeared upon seeing a campus fight, along with her new friend, Jack. This is made clear by the cutting remark by university girls after the fight ended that concludes the opening part of the chapter and Angel’s motivation to research Rayne Tarotia, the son of a local Don. In this way, the main theme — that is, the discrepancy between accepted normality and reality hints, that somehow those two themes will collide bringing out the real reason behind being at M’Heart.

Chapter 2: Bumping into Reality

Chapter two, takes off with Angel’s second day at being a forensic science student at M’Heart University. However, since she only knows her roommate Laura, and her friend Jack, she can’t really ask anyone about the buzz that seems to be around her. She’s forced to buy a newspaper where she reads the title of the news— Swingers: Inside the Secret World of President Jones and his ‘Couples.’ Feeling sick, she throws away the newspaper and continues on her way to get food, however, she doesn’t reach her destination for she bumps into none other than, Rayne Tarotia and his two friends, TJ and Jem. Feeling apologetic, she buys them pizza and ends up being invited to play pool with them the next night. The collision of the themes starts right then and there.

Now, let’s analyze my example.

In the Table of Contents and notes about major events section one learns the title of the chapter, the date, specific event, meeting characters, and some key information. This information helps to organize your summaries. 

In the Chapter Summaries section, one learns what happens one those dates with the information about the theme. Having themes for stories is important and noting a theme in your summary is important. 

I hope that this post helped you to think about book summaries and how helpful they can be to your writing.

Please comment to let me know what you guys thought about this post.




8 Comments on “How to prepare to write Chapter Summaries

  1. I love reading a post where I learn new concepts. I had heard of chapter summaries, but hadn’t found a good example of them in practice. This is definitely something I’m going to start doing in the future. Not only for publication purposes, but also to assist in flow and continuity.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Feature Friday #5 (Bloggers & Books) « Quintessential Editor

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