1. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Should I have fewer chapters?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The95Writer, Feb 3, 2014.

    So far, I have planned for 12 chapters in my first book (well, I labelled them as 'Parts' instead. They have about 10-15 pages each but should I just break it down into less parts or is it okay to keep it as it is.

    Just need opinions, that is all.
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it a novel you're writing? 12 chapters are definitely not too many, there are books with 70 and 80 chapters too... just check a few of them and you'll see. :)
     
  3. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    It is going to be a novella rather than a huge novel.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think 12 chapters sounds fine. There isn't any rule of thumb that I'm aware of that governs the number of chapters in any novel or novella. I'd say get them written, then review, see where the natural breaks come—then decide.

    Just one grammatical niggle: the difference between 'less' and 'fewer'

    Less is used to refer to one item which is reduced in size : we had less time than we needed, we're under less pressure than we were yesterday; he's in less pain now than before he took the ibuprofen; there is a lot less porridge in the bowl since Goldilocks turned up.

    Fewer is used to refer to a group, to designate that the number of these items is reduced : whoever took them, we now have fewer boxes than we had before; because the baby boom is over, we have fewer graduating seniors this year; should I have fewer chapters? :)
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Dagnabbit! @jannert beat me to it. ;)

    Fewer chapters, fewer parts.*
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    writing by formula, or a pre-set number/length of chapters is not the best way to go about writing fiction...

    why do you feel you have to be that OCD about the structure?... why don't you let the chapters determine their own length and number, as the story develops while you're writing it?
     
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  7. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're mostly right of course. But I find setting rough guidelines helps me anticipate when major events are coming and helps me avoid going off on too many tangents. The discipline of knowing how many chapters there will be helps me stay focused. Of course, so far the finished product has never matched the guidelines, but they still accomplished their task.
     
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  8. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Think in terms of a TV show, and about how, just before the break for commercial, something happens that's sort of punctuation. There's a change on direction, a little surprise, or "now what do we do?" They're chapter ends. In TV they come regularly for commercial and dramatic reasons. When writing for the printed word we're not constrained as tightly, time wise, but the idea that something happens to change the direction of the plot, or introduce a new and unexpected factor, is the same.
     
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  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    When first writing the story, you might want to consider focusing on major plot points in your timeline. I'd think of the scenes you want to write and build the story with a rough scene map to help you plot. That way, your focus is more on the story and what's in it rather than where to create breaks. Stories create their own breaks when the direction changes, when major events come to an end, when he focus shifts, and when new complications are introduced. However, it is your job to find which of these turning points warrant a chapter break. Using scenes to build your story helps you to see the progression.

    That level of managing doesn't fit everyone; so maybe you could just write and divide it at natural places afterwards. I still recommend making a scene map, a timeline, or anything to help you keep track of the direction and motion of the story.

    Edit: Also keep in mind, a good place to end a chapter is when there is something the must be done. If every chapter is self-contained, it could get formulaic very quickly. Instead, use chapters to build something bigger, something that keeps the reader reaching. Some chapters should resolve some things, but not every chapter needs a resolution. Sometimes things are just turning up! ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
  10. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    I tend to let chapters end where they want to: either by 'feel', where something is concluded, or there is a 'hook' to carry the reader onward in the story.

    Last night I wrote a scene where my MC comes home and finds divorce papers on his kitchen table. His wife is already gone. He makes the decision to take off for a few weeks to plan his life ahead. It is late in the day, so he decides he will leave the next morning. The scene is only four pages long, and could be a chapter, but it I don't know that it warrants being one, so for now it is simply a 'page break' so that I can quickly carry the reader on to him packing up and heading out the following day. This chapter, where I introduce him, is vastly different than the two preceding it (that focuses on his love interest he has yet to meet) and therefore I've just 'startled' the reader by introducing a new character with a whole new set of problems. Chapter or not? One could argue it both ways.

    I recall Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath having fresh chapters that just seemed to jump out of nowhere (in a good way) and might only be a few pages long, whereas ones talking extensively of the Joads would be twice as many pages. I've read other books where a chapter may be two pages. There is no hard and fast 'rule' in my observation.
     
  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh! What Wreybies said.
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Excellent advice.
     
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  13. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I'd like to start the book with "Chapter 1." and then go to "Part II" and "Section 3." etc. and see if any reader ever notices.
     
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  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How about "Chapter 1", then "Chapter 3", then "Chapter 7"? People will think their copy of the book is defective and they're missing a bunch of chapters, when they really aren't.

    Or just number all your chapters in hexadecimal. :D
     
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  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay. In a totally nerd-world concept, why not use binary to number your chapters?
     
  16. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I once read a book about computer hackers. The chapter numbers had to be solved as riddles. Sometimes I would spend as much time figuring out the chapter number as I did reading the following chapter. Although you knew the number ahead of time, I *had* to understand the clue to get the number or I wouldn't let myself read on! It was great fun!
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I want to write a novel with the following table of contents:

    Chapter 1
    The Next Chapter 10
    Another Chapter 21
    Yet Another Chapter 35
    Chapter Five 48
    Not a Chapter (Especially Not Chapter Six) 60
    A Chapter Disguised as Some Pages with Words on Them 75
    @GingerCoffee Does Not Believe in this Chapter Because She Hasn’t Read It Yet 97
    @JJ_Maxx Believes In This Chapter Even Though It Doesn’t Exist 121
    This Is Not A Chapter 121
    Chapter In Which Plumbing Is Discussed, But Not in a Sexy Way 135
    Section Eight 153
    Prologue 167
    List of Charts and Graphs 175
    Not Really an Appendix 191
    Chapter Five (again) 202
    Blatant Filler 215
    About The Author 240
    Finnegans Wake 241
    Epilogue 899
    Glossary 912
    Answers to Odd-Numbered Exercises 940
    Notes 951
     
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  18. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    COMEDY GOLD :D
     
  19. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Because there are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numbers, and those who don't.
     
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  20. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    Pre-chapter 7 Chapter 7.
    Shorter than Pre-Chapter 7 Chapter 7.
     
  21. BobKowalski
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    BobKowalski Member

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    Write as many chapters as you deem necessary, there's no real limit to what you can do with chapters. Do whatever fits your story.
     
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  22. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can so relate to that.
     
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  23. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    THE MOST PERFECT ANSWER!!!!
    Thanks.
     
  24. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Everything seems to have gone off-topic and confusing.
     
  25. BobKowalski
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    BobKowalski Member

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    It's okay as it is :)
     

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