Writing to me is a fluid beast that wants to get free and roam away from my keyboard, so I rope it down with rules and regulations. Some of you may share my feelings and for those who do, allow me to introduce one of my top 3 regulations on writing.
Rule #2 – The Three Chapter Rule
AKA – The Scrapping Rule
The Three Chapter rule states that when working on the rough draft of a manuscript inside or outside one’s own genre, allow exactly three chapters to pass before judgment of said manuscript’s potential as a publication. Three chapters is both the minimum and maximum to judge the efficacy of one’s own writing ability in regards to the aforementioned product.
This rule holds well in novels and novellas, though short fiction may require some fine tuning as to what a chapter actually is. An agent going through a slush pile can judge the ability of a writer in one chapter usually, but for the author to accurately judge the long term viability of a particular piece, I do believe three chapters is necessary.
The Three Chapter Rule – Disambiguation
When writing a story, especially one near the edges of my own comfortable genre, it can be easy to get discouraged early on. The first chapter is seldom enough of a sample to make an accurate judgment call on whether I feel comfortable continuing the piece, and two chapters barely hammers down the plot. In order to ensure the plot is quality and the content is something I feel comfortable writing, three chapters is both the minimum and maximum I need to write before making a judgment call.
The great thing here is that chapters grow and shrink with the book in question, so the percentage of a book that three chapters takes up usually remains pretty consistent. In a 20 chapter book, three chapters is about 15% no matter what way you slice it, so you might call this the 15% rule instead, but three chapters has a nice ring to it.