Most books are divided into chapters, but some books are divided into chapters and ‘parts.’ Some people think breaks like this are arbitrary. These people are wrong.
Not so long ago, I decided to split my novel into parts. This might have been partially influenced from the number of books I was reading at the time that had parts. I read More Than This by Patrick Ness, which had four parts, and afterwards read Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky which had about seven parts. Patrick Ness did something particularly interesting where the parts got shorter and shorter the closer the book came to the end, which made the story feel quicker.
That’s the effect story divisions have. Chapter breaks, scene breaks, page breaks, even breaks in sentences all make us feel something. The beak must serve the needs of the story.
Since discovering that splitting up my book is best thing for my story, I’ve put together a plot structure that looks something like this:
Six parts does feel a little excessive, but each part is relatively short. For example, part one is four chapters long.
Each part ends at a high in the story: the inciting incident, the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point, the climatic moment, and finally ending with the resolution.
I do feel the need to point out that I did not plan this structure first and then fit the story into it. Honestly I don’t know how people do that. I don’t outline, I write by the seat of my pants, and when it comes to story structure, I pretty much agree with what Lindsay Ellis said in her Three Act Screenplay video essay:
My plot structure came about naturally when I chose to divide my story into parts. The story I’m writing goes through very different but linked phases. For example, part one takes place eleven months before part two, which is why I felt a clear division was needed, a division much more powerful than just a plain old chapter break.
That, ultimately, is the reason writers do this. Splitting a novel into parts makes the reader sit up and think “Hey up, this next bit is going to feel different.”
It evokes a feeling of change.