First off, I warn that I do not plan my writing. An idea starts and then starts to grow. Short stories are typically based on prompts or an idea I had to write down during the day. Longer pieces are formed after that short work is completed. It has a direction, it has more that needs to be written, or a line is drawn in my mind to a final conclusion.
This advice may help, but your process may be completely different. I have adopted a lot of Jim Butcher’s approach to writing a scene. It has morphed into something that fits who I am and my style. Each scene is either conflict or reflection.
Conflict can mean many different things. Sometimes the scene includes action of some sort such as a physical battle or a mental battle of wits. These chapters include a resolution to something that is outstanding or introducing some new information. It could be your character struggling within themselves about an action they may need to take or a decision. Does your main character go to the nightclub to meet up with their contact or will they explore the docks where they were told the shipment was coming in tonight? Both choices have a time limit as the contact is only there on Tuesdays and this could be the last time a drop is made at this location.
Internal and external conflict defines these chapters. The choices made by your main character is a result of who they are and what their beliefs are. Are they willing to risk their life if push comes to shove or would they rather get more pawns in place for the final confrontation? Always remember who your character is. If they do act uncharacteristically, what was the purpose behind it?
The reflection chapters give readers a bit of breathing room as well as time to process. This is a great spot for your main character to make connections that they might have missed. Was their source credible? Does what they just learned line up with what they have known all along? Unless you are writing something that resembles the movie Crank, there is room to relax. John McClane had time to remove the glass from his feet and the Terminator had time to learn new catchphrases. Your main character can get a moment to breathe and think about what they got themselves into.
The mix for this is typically one chapter of conflict followed by a chapter of reflection. There is a good chance that chapters can include a little of both as well. New information could be analyzed right away. Reflecting on their journey so far, our main character could be questioning their beliefs and be conflicted. I tend to add more conflict and after a few chapters give the character a chance to think. You will find what is right for yourself and your style.
I hope you enjoyed and may have taken something away from this. If you disagree and feel I should look at another approach, let me know! I am always learning and have yet to perfect my own craft. What do you differently for your own chapters?
Thank you and be well.