Posted by: nancyisanders | March 9, 2015

Challenge: Write a Chapter Book in 1 Month


I thought you’d like to see a picture of me typing out my mentor text last week. That’s because today we’re going to really use some of the stats from our mentor text, THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER to help us write our first chapter and start off with a BANG!

And just in case you were wondering, I have my book propped up next to my computer in a bookholder called a BookChair. You can see a couple of close-up shots down below of the two sizes I have.

I must say I love love love this BookChair! Unfortunately it’s not produced anymore but you can still buy a couple of them new or used for under $20 at a reseller such as on Amazon. I keep mine next to my computer and it’s the handiest thing for propping up a book when you are:

* typing out your mentor text
* typing up your bibliography
* typing research notes into your document

Just thought I’d share how much I love this in case you were looking for something like this to make your writing life easier.



Okay, now for our focus on writing today. If you’re following along with me on my calendar to write an early chapter book, today’s the day we write Chapter 1.

Let’s look at the stats in our mentor text first, though.

When I ran a spelling and grammar check on Chapter 1 in the text I typed out for THE RED FLYER ROLLER COASTER, here’s what I discovered:

It had 370 words. (We can DO this today, friends!)
It had 18 paragraphs. (Yep, I know we can do this today.)
It had 29 sentences. (YES! We can write less than 30 sentences today for our goal.)

On the average, it has 1.7 sentences per paragraph. (We’re talking short paragraphs here)
It had 12.7 words per sentence. (Not too short and not too long)
It had 4.4 characters per word. (Most words were on the short side so kids could read them easily.)

It had 0% passive sentences (no weak verbs here!)
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level was 5.3 for readability. (That seemed a little high for second graders so I’m actually trying to keep below that for my own text.)

I felt encouraged already.

Then I ran a spelling and grammar check on the FIRST SCENE in Chapter 1. That’s because the first scene of a book is very, very important to hook the reader (and the editor!).

To help clarify exactly what the FIRST SCENE is, I’ll share it with you here, along with the readability statistics and a few other notes:

Scene 1
3 pages in published book or 1 and 1/2 spreads

Readability Statistics
145 words
12 paragraphs
13 sentences
1.4 sentences per paragraph
10.9 words pre sentence
0 passive sentences
5.2 Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

“TOO SMALL!” announced Measuring Man.
“Are you sure I’m not tall enough?” pleaded Sophie Bean.
“Sorry, you must be 44 inches tall to ride the Red Flyer Roller Coaster. You are only 43 inches,” answered Measuring Man, as he guarded the entrance to the roller coaster with his tall measuring stick.
“NEXT!” he called to Sophie Bean’s twin cousins, Ryan and Parker.
“Sophie Bean, Sophie Bean, the littlest bean we’ve ever seen!” sang Ryan and Parker.
“Another summer and you’re still not tall enough!” said Ryan.
“Forty-six inches!” announced Measuring Man to Parker. “Forty-seven inches! Enjoy the ride,” he said to Ryan.
Sophie Bean turned and slowly walked back down the stairs of the roller coaster toward Mommy and Aunt Lynn.
“I’m so tired of sitting and watching them. I wanted to go on the Red Flyer this year,” said Sophie Bean.

There are several things to note about this opening scene.

#1. It starts right in the middle of the action. Start your first scene right in the middle of the action.
#2. It’s nearly all dialogue. Make your opening scene have lots of dialogue.
#3. There’s hardly any description other than “tall” measuring stick and “twin” cousins. This means at this reading level you really don’t need to tell the reader Sophie Bean had freckles or was wearing a pink shirt and blue jeans skirt. The kids can see this in the illustration. So don’t put lots of description into your first scene.
#4 Each character has a name, even Measuring Man. Give your characters names, especially fun ones.
#5. We already know the main story problem in the opening lines: Sophie Bean is too small to ride the roller coaster. Let your reader know your main story problem in the first opening lines of your scene.

Do you feel ready to write your first scene? At this level, it won’t be very long. Then finish the rest of your first chapter so that it’s close to the same word count as this one.

One last note: The last sentence of Chapter 1 in our mentor text is CHANGE 1 on our plot chart.
“She just had to get on that roller coaster.”

By the last sentence of your first chapter, plug in CHANGE 1 as well. Bring the reader into Act II by having him pass the bridge of no return.

If you’re just not sure about all this early chapter book stuff, it might help to read my book, YES! YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO WRITE BEGINNING READERS AND CHAPTER BOOKS. Chapter 12 will be especially helpful this month for the CHABOOCHA challenge.

I’ve written a number of chapter books for various publishers at various reading levels both fiction and nonfiction and share lots of strategies and tips in my book to help you experience success in this fun genre. If you don’t have the time or resources to buy it now you can always read lots of the text for free on the LOOK INSIDE THE BOOK feature on Amazon. Maybe it will help you this week as you’re working on your first half of this 8-chapter chapter book!


  1. This is really helpful Nancy. I wrote my first chapter yesterday. Now I am going to check it against your post today.

    • I’m so excited you actually did it!!! Hooray for you! Sometimes the first chapter is the hardest but it helps get the ball rolling.

  2. Love the book chair idea 🙂 I struggle and fight trying to hold my spot when I type out pb’s.
    I’m glad I’m following along…I’m learning a lot 🙂

    • So glad you’re following and learning, too! And yes, the book chair has made it so much easier to do these tasks!!!!

  3. Love the book chair idea!

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