Gearing Up For Conference Part 2: Chapter Breakdown

This week my paid critique was due. So I’ve been polishing up my proposal. I left the hardest part for last, the chapter breakdown. I’m not sure why everything else seemed so much easier. Probably because the other pieces of my proposal, the one sheet, query, and synopsis were all one page each. So much easier the writing a mini-synopsis of thirty-seven chapters right?

I wonder how many editors or agents really want to see chapter breakdown. The main purpose of a chapter breakdown is to show that your story has depth and conflict enough to keep reader interest. Which means the story would have to really grab them enough to want to ask for it. In my mind, that puts a lot of pressure on this five-page document.

How can I pack in all the highlights of each chapter, including conflict and characterization, in just a few sentences? That was my struggle. How can I explain but wow people with thirty-seven tiny punches? It almost seems impossible. I decided to work on it in drafts, just like I have with my novel.

The first draft is the bare happenings of each chapter. A few details of setting or characterization were sprinkled in. But they mostly serve as place holders. Due to time constraints this is the version I had to send with my critique. Hopefully I’ll get some good tips anyway.

In my second draft I plan to spice it up. Add some voice to bring out the characters. Play up the drama to leave each chapter on a cliffhanger. My hope is to make the breakdown come alive so it no longer feels like a business proposal but a play-by-play of an exciting story. That is my goal. And if I can achieve it, that’ll be worth it’s weight in gold at the conference. Or at least a trip to the take-home pile instead of the trash can. I’ve got three weeks left to work on it. Time to get cracking. 🙂


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