1. kruppust
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    kruppust New Member

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    Are chapters really necessary?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kruppust, Aug 9, 2012.

    Hi guys, i am new around here. I wanted to post parts of my, tentatively titled, novel/ passion project called "The Ashes of Chaos". but before that I want to ask an elementary question. Are chapters really necessary? I am almost 75% through my novel (with approx. 85000 words) and I have only divided them into 'books' or 'Arcs'. Will it make any difference?
    I am writing the 3rd arc/ book now and have not bothered to organize the book into chapters. I am in my first draft. and even in the final draft, how important are the chapter?
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Well, there have been a number of books written that do not separate themselves into chapters. Daniel Defoe, for instance, wrote all his books as continuous narratives without breaks. I don't recommend doing it, chapter breaks can be nice plotting points for reading. You can plan to read to chapter 8 and then set it down, or if something is coming up and you have the time you can read to the end of the chapter and not feel like you might have forgotten something which often happens when I read Defoe's work - I can't tell you how lost I was for a while when I read Moll Flanders, and started reading again in the middle of a paragraph because without chapters I kept my place starting with the first new sentence on a page.

    They are not 'necessary' but they can be very helpful and comforting to the reader.
     
  3. kruppust
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    kruppust New Member

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    Thanks Lemex. I have read books where the end of each chapter is used as a sort of 'mini cliff hangars'. I take your point that lack of chapters may be disconcerting or even unfulfilling to some but I think it adds a certain depth to the novel, in the sense it forces the readers to consider the book as a continuous saga and not provide artificial checkpoints.
    And how important is from the perspective of a publisher? i mean, do they insist on chapters?
    Thanks again for reply!
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'm not sure if they insist on chapters, keep in mind Daniel Defoe is an 18th century writer, and I'm talking from a story-telling perspective only. I hate mini cliff-hangers. It's a personal pet peve but it turns me away so quickly it's not even funny. I don't like cliff-hangers, of any kind, I find them cheap. A lot of very respectable writers never use them, at all.

    Setting novels into 'books' or 'volumes' or 'parts' is something that is also done. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon I think has continuous narratives split only by 'parts', and there is (I think, this is purely from memory and I'm away from my book collection) only 4 parts to a 700 page book.
     
  5. kruppust
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    kruppust New Member

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    Thanks a lot. I might try breaking my book into chapters and testing both approaches. Its never a bad thing to experiment, is it?
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Never. :)
     
  7. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Well, I'd be careful with those "nevers", we are people with imagination here and I'm sure we could come up with some situations where an experiment (even of this kind) could lead to undesirable outcomes.

    Nevertheless, I don't believe this is the case. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you don't have chapters, do you just have page after page of undivided prose?... do you use line breaks at all?... line breaks only?
     
  9. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    As I reader and a writer, I personally need chapters. As a reader, I use them as my stopping points for putting the book down and picking it up again. As a writer, I use them as the demarcations of my large story beats and changes of scene.

    But that's just my personal need for chapters. I can't speak for anyone else, and I certainly cannot speak for publishers.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I may be out in left field here, but I see chapters as natural breaks in the story telling, just as paragraphs are "switchovers" between ideas. I have a friend of mine who never breaks her books into chapters until after the first draft(s) are done. Then she reads through it and can tell where the chapters should begin and end. Quite honestly, I can't imagine a story not having chapter breaks unless it all happened in one rolling scene - which would include everything that happened between Time A and Time B and Location A and Location B - and I think that would get terribly boring.
     
  11. kruppust
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    kruppust New Member

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    I use line breaks and lots of them.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I agree with you on all points. Cliffhanging chapter's should be use like salt in cooking...as little as possible. The advice I tell people, is to write the chapter as you see the scene unfolding, and if there's a place where a pause shows up naturally, then cut it off. It's called a "Beat" in script writing which means literally, stop, wait a beat or two and start again. The same process works in novels.

    As to a number of chapters or not, that's up the the author himself or herself. It might work, it might not, it's up to you to figure out how it works for yourself, but always keep your reader in mind. Make sure there are places where they can put it down and go sleep, eat, work, etc etc
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've seen this done in experimental novels - and it can work really well depending on how crafty the author
    is with line breaks. But, I don't think I've ever seen this in genre fiction. Is your story genre?
    If it is , the reader will, probably, be expecting chapters.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i doubt you'll find an agent or paying publisher willing to take it on w/o chapters...
     

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