1. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Structure and chapters - what's polite and what's obligatory

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by tcol4417, Feb 4, 2013.

    The use of chapters to break up the action in a story is something I've taken for granted.

    I haven't noticed it until now, but a handful of authors buck the trend and don't use explicit chapters at all. You wouldn't know by reading it (the only difference being a lack of large page gaps and the occasional big number), but I wonder if deliberately neglecting to divide your story into chapters irritates editors and publishers or not.

    I'm not talking about the effects this has on the reader, mind you - I'm just asking whether a publisher would react negatively to a story that - well written or otherwise - doesn't use explicit chapters.
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You never know until you try, but a rule of thumb seems top be that publishers don't like anything that deviates from the usual ie. they automatically throw it away if it doesn't look right. They usually ask for first three chapters in the queries so if you didn't have any chapters, what would you send?
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    So your novel is basically one long chapter? I'm guessing a lot of publishers/agents wouldn't like it.
     
  4. Revenant
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    Revenant Member

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    I've recently read a book where there are no chapters, but there are headings in the middle of pages where a new scene is starting. And page breaks for random free-verse poems. So sometimes, at least, this is accepted. Probably you just need to find the right publisher. Maybe you want to go through an agent for that book, or at least consult with someone related to the publishing industry.
     
  5. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    I would suggest researching publishers that have previously published no chapter books and see if your novel with fit in their collection.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just keep in mind that a new writer has less flexibility than an established writer. When you have a novel or two behind you, and an agent advocating for you, you can be less conventional without being shuffled to the Not Interested pile.

    Actually, even that is not the right way to think of it. As an untested writer, you start out in the slush pile, along with hundreds of other Great Unwashed competitors. You want to bethe sharply dressed, clean cut go-getter who attracts the submissions editor's eye. That means you put on your best interview behavior, with a crisp, professional looking manuscript that sells itself through quality writing, starting at the very first sentence. Anything that looks odd or amateurish at this stage will get you left in the pit, or send you straight to the Not Interested exit.

    First impressions are everything here. You can fool yourself and think, "Well, if they are true professionals, they will recognize unconventional genius when they see it."

    Not so. As professionals, they will want to screen as many submissions from the Pit as time allows, and that means you have one chance to sell them on your manuscript, and it's a very narrow window of opportunity.

    I don't know if not dividing your manuscript into chapters will give a poor first impression. All I know is that using chapters won't ruin your chances. So if it's your first novel, why take the chance? Unless, of course, you have a compelling reason for not taking chapter breaks.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto cog's cogent comments...
     

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