That is the question. I’ve powered my way through several first drafts now and I seem to have done this a different way every time. Since SORB is first and foremost in my mind (still!), I’ll talk about that for a moment.
While writing SORB, I broke the action according to scene. I made sure that each one had a beginning, middle and end, and if I could, I ended the chapter on a cliff hanger or a moment of emotional tension. However, some chapters, despite my best efforts, ended in a gentle, almost cosy way. I’ll talk about why that bothers me in a moment.
The other extreme is last year’s NaNo novel (Escape To Elethra) in which there were no breaks at all. I don’t know if that’s because I was moving through it so quickly, but that’s how it panned out; just the occasional text break when I switched POV.
When reading, I get quite distressed if there are no breaks in the text. At the moment, since all my reading tends to happen on the loo, or in a coffee shop, I only have five minutes to give to it each time I pick up a book. As a result, short chapters or regularly broken scenes make it easier to stop. It gives me a clear point to come back to. This also serves the purpose of ensuring that I do come back, because, more often than not, these breaks come before a POV shift or at a cliff hanger. It’s a common and very effective device to keep a reader turning the pages. For this reason, I worked hard to give SORB sensible breaks and compelling endings. What I also find is that a reader (myself included) sometimes needs a break. In a high octane action novel, or a chilling thriller, is is important to get a breather. Not least because if everything is high powered and tense, then nothing is. Contrast is paramount to show off the dips and troughs of the narrative.
These things tell me that I, at least, have to have regular breaks. If not chapters, then at least text breaks. These give me the chance to pause for breath and/or enjoy the anticipation of waiting for the solution to any given cliff hanger.
What about you guys? Do you regularly break up your text with chapters? Do you prefer just having the story roll out at you with no space at all?