Saturday 28 March 2020

Writing Your Chapter Book by Melissa Stoller #ChaBooCha

For those of you getting a late start to your ChaBooCha story or needing to start from scratch, or even those who need some new, fresh ideas to keep their story going, we have this great post from Melissa Stoller to share with you today.

Image by Willgard Krause on Pixabay

by Melissa Stoller 

If it’s March – it must be Chapter Book Challenge 2020! I have written several posts for the Chapter Book Challenge, including Working Your Way Through Chapter Book Challenge 2017, How to Start Writing Your Chapter Book, How to Write a Chapter Book Series, and Brainstorming Ideas.  

In this post, I will offer some strategies for brainstorming, researching, and drafting your chapter book this month. Ready, set, CHABOOCHA! 

Determine the Book’s World – Brainstorm some specifics about the setting of your story’s world. Is it fiction? Are there non-fiction or historical elements? What are the rules in this world? How does it all work? Writing reference points for your story setting will enable you to remain true to your story’s world, and offer enriching details in your chapter book. 

Draft a Character Study – Know as much as possible about your characters before you write. What are their likes, dislikes, and goals? What are their favorite foods, games, books, movies, and friends? What are their quirks, fears, and embarrassments? How do they speak and relate to each other? Before I start writing, I do a character sketch and interview each main character. As I write, I refer back to these notes to ensure that my characters are interesting, relatable, and consistent throughout my books. 


For example, in my chapter book series THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION, Simon loves games, especially cards, food, and adventure. His twin sister Emma loves solving puzzles, chatting with people, and taking chances. They both love Molly, their grandmother’s dog. I use these characteristics and more as I draft scenes and dialogue. 

Plot Your Plot – Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. What obstacles will your characters face? How will they overcome those obstacles? What growth will take place during the story, both in the characters’ external journeys and also their internal journeys? Also, what themes are your including in your story? Think about how your plot and themes will resonate with young readers. 


Research – While my chapter book series is fiction, the stories also include historical elements. If possible, I visit the locations where the books take place. For example, when working on the first book in the series, RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, I visited Coney Island and the famous Cyclone roller coaster (but didn’t ride!). I also visited the Liberty Bell while writing THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, the second book in the series (releasing soon!). Recently, I travelled to Washington, D.C. to research at the Library of Congress while working on the third book in the series which is set there. 

If you can’t research in person, you can also research online. Book Two of my series also takes place in San Francisco, which I didn’t visit, but I did extensive research online using Google Maps,, the U.S. National Archives online, and other sources. 

Outline Your Story – I start each book in my series with an outline of ten chapters, assuming each chapter will be roughly 500 words each. Even of you don’t normally outline, it might be helpful. As long as I have a detailed outline (which I often revise as I go along), I know that I’m headed in the right direction. 

Sit Down and Write – I usually start writing chapter one first, but when I move toward the middle of the story, I find that sometimes it’s easier to write the chapters out of order. Make sure you have page-turning transitions between chapters so the reader will keep reading, and enough action to move the story forward. I often put my chapter book project away between chapters so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. As I move along, I always think about setting, characters, plot, and themes, and I use my research and my outline to write. 

I hope this is a helpful framework in which to approach your chapter book project during the Chapter Book Challenge this month. 

Cheers to creativity! 



The first book in Melissa Stoller's chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island was published by Clear Fork Publishing in 2017, and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride releases soon! Her picture books, Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set and GOrilla! were published by Clear Fork in 2018. In other chapters of her life, she has worked as a lawyer, legal research and writing instructor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a volunteer with SCBWI/Metro NY, a blogger and Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for the Chapter Book Challenge, and a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and their puppy Molly, who is a character in her chapter book series! 

Connect with Melissa: 



Melissa has offered, as today's two separate prizes,a signed copy of her chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION - RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, plus a critique of the first three chapters of a chapter book manuscript. You must be a signed-up member of the challenge and comment on this post in order to be added to the drawing. The winners will be chosen by a random number generator at noon on March 31st, 2020 and announced later that day.


  1. Great chapter book writing tips, thank you! I would love to win a critique- wow so generous :)

    1. plus I see you won a signed copy of my book!! Woo hoo. Email me at or message me!!

  2. Cheers back to you, Melissa! It's no wonder you're a constant source of advice for CBA :) I don't suppose you have any masterful tips on revising your draft? That's where I'm struggling & I think I've fallen into a well of red marks :) Stay safe & thx for your informative post!~Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny! I do have a few blog posts about revising on my website Plus - I see you won a critique!! Woo hoo!! So excited!!! Email or message me!!

  3. I'm horrible at character studies but I'll give it another try.

  4. Thanks for the comment!!! I’m glad it was helpful!