?

Which strikes you as best for a long book with short chapters?

  1. Divide book into parts with chapter numbers beginning from 1 in each

    1 vote(s)
    16.7%
  2. Divide book into parts with chapter numbers continuing where they left off in the part before

    2 vote(s)
    33.3%
  3. Keep book as one continuous unit with chapter numbers going as high as they need to

    3 vote(s)
    50.0%
  1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to organize chapters

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catrin Lewis, Aug 20, 2016.

    Need your reactions and opinions.

    My WIP is a longish book, but I tend to write short chapters (1,700 words or so on average). I try to keep them internally unified as to subject, plot arc, character development, whatever. Which is to say I don't see combining them into larger units . . . at least, I can't see it right now.

    That's getting me into around 80 chapters. That's scarily formidable on a table of contents, right?

    So to make things more manageable, I've broken the book down into four parts, A through D, and the chapters go A.1, A.2, A.3 . . . B.1, B.2, B.3 . . . and so on. Each section focuses on a different aspect of the plot, is its own conceptual unit ending in particular crisis, and I've headed each of them with a quotation that gives a key to its theme. From where I sit this looks like a good way to handle it.

    But one of my beta readers has wondered why I've done it that way, especially as the first two sections take place in one time line and general setting. Another one asked why I didn't start section B with "Chapter 13."

    I need gut reactions. Which would look better to you on a TOC: Chapters organized into sections with the numbers starting over at the beginning of each one (even if you might question the division at one point)? Chapters in Sections with continuous numbering? Or no sections, and a continuous list Chapter 1 through Chapter 80?

    And to refer to a previous thread I started, would having chapter titles help if I did the 1 through 80 bit?

    (But crap, I really want to keep those quotations . . . and no, I don't think they're "darlings"!)

    EDIT: I hit upon the A.1 . . . B.1 . . . etc. format because my book is about a couple of architects, and I thought that would evoke (to any design professionals who might happen to read it) the feeling of a set of architectural drawings. But in reality, a drawing set would be labeled A.1, A.2 . . . (Architectural), S.1, S.2 . . . (Structural), ME.1, ME.2 . . . (Mechanical/Electrical), and so on. Which works great for construction documents, but not so much for a novel.

    Oh, self-doubt is so wonderful!
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
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  2. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I would not start back at chapter 1 again. I would do A 1, A2, A3...B4 B5 B6...C7, C8, C9. It will get incredibily confusing if someones says "Oh chapter 3 was amazing!" Which chapter 3? You know. Its all one story and one book, there shouldnt be multiple chapter 3s in the same book.
     
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  3. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I agree with AASmith. Dividing the book into parts denoted by a letter would be good for keeping track, but rearranging the numbers back to 1 each time would become confusing I think. I think splitting the book into 4-or so parts does a good job on making the 80 chapters seem less overwhelming. Having a "B1" chapter might also give rise to the impression that it is the start of a whole new story, while in fact it is a continuation of part A.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just curious. Have you considered amalgamating some of the chapters together, making each chapter you have now into a scene within a larger 'chapter' context? Are you sure you're not labeling each scene a chapter? If you can find a thematic reason to put several of your present chapters together, making them separate scenes instead, that might solve your problem.

    It's not head hopping if you change POV between scenes, as long as you make it clear right at the start of each one who the POV character is. Mind you, you'd have to do that at the start of each new chapter as well, so it's not really a problem if you plan to amalgamate.

    It's not necessary to make chapters all the same length. Nobody is counting words as they read. It's the thematic structure that unifies a chapter.
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry if I'm misinterpreting here, but it's not normal to have a contents page in fiction, is it? I know you said 'table' of contents and not 'page', but I presume this is what you mean.
     
  6. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I voted for 'continuous numbering, no sections'. I could deal with sections if there were an organic plot-based reason for them (sounds like there may be, not sure), but I seldom think they're necessary; they often strike me as distracting and confusing ornamentation.

    Why do you need a Contents? I can't remember the last fiction book I read that had one. (Slight possibility that I find them so unnecessary I flick past them so quickly that I don't even remember they exist.)
     
  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm thinking of the ebook and the live links. It's true that modern printed novels rarely have TOCs.
     
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  8. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, no, definitely I do not have each scene as a separate chapter. I'd have over 200 chapters if that were the case.

    I am considering how I might combine some of the current chapters together. It's very possible I split them up because I thought they were getting to be of atypical length for the book, not because the thematic material was different.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just a thought. Combining a few chapters into a mini-story that makes thematic sense might be easier than trying to deal with so many chapters, or breaking it all in to separate 'books.' If it works. If not, well, separate chapters and/or 'books' are also very do-able.

    Terry Pratchett doesn't use chapters at all. Anything is possible.
     
  10. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    Why not divide according to journey and change: Ordinary World, Ordinary Self, New World, New Self and so on: read http://www.kalbashir.com/Oscars-2016-Winner-And-Nominees.html
     
  11. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's something like what I have now. Parts 1 and 2 are different thematically. But they overlap a few hours in time and a couple of beta readers questioned the division because of that.
     

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