Thursday 14 September 2017

How to Start Writing Your Chapter Book During ChaBooCha Lite by Melissa Stoller #ChaBooChaLite #ChaBooCha


You made it! You’re here, in Chapter Book Challenge Lite – ChaBooCha Lite! You’re ready to start writing your chapter book. Now what?

I also wrote a post as a guest blogger on Alayne Kay Christian’s blog about how to decide if your story is better suited to be a picture book or a chapter book.

And I’m thrilled that my debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, released this summer from Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, with beautiful illustrations by Callie Metler-Smith. I enjoyed the writing journey and I’m working on finalizing book two during this ChaBooCha Lite month.

Thank you so much, Becky, for inviting me to blog during ChaBooCha Lite. I love the community you have created, and I look forward to spending much more time learning with everyone involved!

For now, members of this special community, here’s a LITE post to help you get started on your chapter book writing journey.


1) READ MENTOR TEXTS: Read some books in the chapter book genre. Go to your local library or bookstore and study at least five recent chapter books that you can use as mentor texts. As you are reading, note the following: what topics lend themselves to chapter books? What lengths are the books? How old are the book’s protagonists? What is the suggested reading age? Think about the writing style, the pacing, the use of illustration, the story arc, and more. I also recommend reading chapter books that have different settings so you can get ideas and see what resonates with you.

2) BRAINSTORM IDEAS: Spend some time thinking about your actual story. That may seem elemental, but it is really important to develop workable ideas. Who are your main characters? What is the conflict that they face? How will they grow or change throughout the story? Who are the secondary characters? Are there any subplots? Is the story funny, touching, scary, creepy, or some combination? What is the setting – family and home, a school, summer camp, another planet? Is the story set in the past, present, or future? What are the broader themes you hope to focus on? It may take some time for your ideas to marinate, simmer, and finally gel.

3) OUTLINE YOUR BOOK: I know that not everyone enjoys writing with plot outlines, but I suggest giving it a try if you are new to chapter book writing. Many chapter books use the ten-chapter format, so start there. Try to outline how your book starts, what happens in the middle section, and how it ends. Your approach and storytelling may change as you write, but at least you have a starting point to help you keep the plot moving forward. And, with an outline, you can always write the chapters out of order if one area, such as the middle, is giving you trouble or making you feel stuck. You can always discard your outline, but at least it gives you a starting point and a roadmap to follow.

4) CHECK OPENING LINES AND CHAPTER TRANSITIONS: Think about how you will hook the reader right from the beginning. How will your first line, paragraph, page, and chapter keep the reader excited about turning pages and continuing to read your story. And remember that each chapter can work almost as a mini-story, with its own story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And each chapter ending should contain a transition, almost a cliffhanger, that keeps the reader engaged and wanting more.

5) JUST GET STARTED:  Sit down and start writing! It’s been said before but it’s worth repeating: it’s much easier to edit words that are already written than to stare at a blank page or screen. Try to write without editing yourself too much as you go along. Maybe try writing freely until you have a chapter or two and then go back and make some edits. At some point, you will send your draft to your critique partners (maybe even another writer you meet this month in this writing group!). But for now, just keep going and get the story written.

Good luck with your chapter book writing this month during CHABOOCHA LITE and in the future! I look forward to finding your books in libraries and bookstores and to reading them all!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 2017); the debut picture book SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, 2018); and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, 2018).  She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, an Assistant for Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy, and a volunteer with SCBWI-MetroNY. Melissa writes parenting articles, and in previous chapters of her life, she has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, travelling, and adding treasures to her collections.

 Connect with Melissa online at, MelissaBergerStoller (Facebook),  @MelissaStoller (Twitter), and Melissa_Stoller (Instagram).



Melissa is happy to send a signed copy of THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND to one lucky winner. Please comment on this post to be eligible.


  1. I just saw this, so am starting a bit late, but I have a set of stories I wrote years ago. They are a mess at this point, but maybe now is the time to dig them up and do some cleaning. By the way, the CB I wrote for this years ChaBooCha, was just sent out to several agents yesterday. Feeling hopeful.

  2. Great post, Melissa!! Thank you for the excellent advice on getting started writing chapter books. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer and do not use an outline per se, I do, however, have lists of names of towns, male and female names to choose from and words to use in whatever language I may be writing about, as well as the flora and fauna, the clothing, the food, and children’s games that may be in my stories... but to me these are research notes not an outline.

  3. I won't qualify for give away as I'm in Australia, but I love what you've said here, Melissa. I did a chapter plan for my second chapter book (the one I'm working on) but I didn't for my first book. I can say, having a chapter plan made it soooo much easier. I wrote lots of stuff in the first book that I had to delete because it didn't work within the story. So I am no longer a pantser!

  4. Melissa’s helpful questions offer a great way for thought-provoking entry into the world of writing chapter books. I’ve saved these suggestions and will be using them regularly during the planning, writing, and revising phases. Many thanks indeed, and well done Melissa on producing a fantastically enchanting chapter book!

  5. Great post, I am novel reader and almost 100+ books already read. I love to read romance and fiction novel. Usually I proffered eBooks rather than ordinary Books. I download eBook copy for me and read the novels. But from Last year I am thinking to became writer of my own story and here is your post helps me a lot to start my own novel. Thanks for sharing thoughts in blog post.