I try to end each of my chapters with a cliffhanger. It’s part of a pattern in my work day. I write a chapter until I hit page 15. At that point, I’m watching for a cliffhanger event. It might be an odd occurrence, a character who shows up unexpectedly, imminent danger, or anything else that will make the reader want to turn the page. What I definitely don’t want is for a reader to say, “Okay, I finished the chapter. I can stop reading for now.” No, no, no! I want the reader to say, “Holy cow! I can’t set the book down here!”
After page 15, nearly any cliffhanger event will do. Then I can hit SAVE and start a new file for the next chapter. The only complications come when the chapter goes on past page 20 or even 25 and I still have no good cliffhanger stopping point. Eep! When chapters get long, readers also have a tendency to say, “Well, I’ll just stop here in the middle.” We definitely don’t want that. With shorter chapters, the reader is more likely to say, “I’ll just finish up this chapter.” At which point, she encounters a cliffhanger and just has to keep reading the next short chapter. So when a chapter is running long, I sometimes have to find something that’s just an okay cliffhanger and punch up the tension to make it bigger one.
–Steven Harper Piziks