A Book without Chapters?

chapTaking the bull by the horn and deciding to dive into the grueling activity of writing a novel, there are a number of things the author must decide. Characters, plotline, to use magic or not, how much research is needed, and so so much more. Today, as I work to edit a previously written novel, I embraced, for the first time in my life, a new decision to make. Do I want to use chapters? Like…Chapter 1, chapter 34, chapter 799. (just kidding)

I’ve read a myriad of novels that broke portions of the book in a number of ways. I’ve read books, recently, where instead of using chapters, the author just wrote the character’s name whose POV was for that portion.

So I’m taking an active approach and asking you, my favorite people: Does it matter whether the book has chapters or names to divide sections? Does it even need chapters? What other suggestions might you have to offer?

Cheers,

Michala Tyann

7 thoughts on “A Book without Chapters?

  1. Interesting thought. I’m currently writing a HUGE postmodern novel that originally made sense to have split into chapters…then one morning I realized the entire thing was a long singular story being told verbally to another person and the novel itself was a transcript of what the narrator had said…and I definitely wanted to have the story feel like a story being told (have the reader aware that they’re being told a story instead of making the text as invisible as possible). So I dumped the chapters, removed the blank lines between where they used to be, then realized I still needed some sort of separation (beyond drop downs) to indicate when the narrator jumps from the “current” story to the back story so I took the formatting I’d used for the previous chapter titles and simply had the part of the sentence that 1. is as close to the shift as possible and 2. best represents the theme of the upcoming section in that format…put into that style as a faux chapter heading…drop down, chapter heading like formatted sentence fragment with NO other interruption to the story, then drop down and continue the sentence (or start the new sentence) and move on. And the story reads like a transcript that was formatted to add faux chapters in order to make it more clear for the reader. This helps the story feel like it was told verbally, then was transcribed and formatted to communicate the narrator’s tone of voice (as best possible…italics, etc), then finally, certain sentence fragments were reformatted to give the allusion of chapters even though the story continues uninterrupted…page, after page, after page, and so on. So it bridges the gap between oral and non oral story telling…in such a way that becomes a major theme in the book.

  2. I would say that everything you do in a book should be motivated by the story and/or the purpose of the story. If the book is to be as mainstream as possible then clearly defined chapters are probably a good idea. If you’re doing something like my above example then ambiguous chapters are one way to do it. However, if you’re writing the mad ramblings of a mental patient then maybe no chapters is the best solution. You could also write an experimental book that is every single event that takes place at a party during a two hour period (EVERY single detail) and not split into chapters because the book is essentially one single chapter in and of itself. Anyway, let the story tell you how it wants to be divided/subdivided (books, chapters, drop downs, paragraphs, etc.)

  3. I usually try to imagine I’m reading the book I’m working on from the point of view of a reader. I didn’t write the book, but found it at a book store and am reading it as a reader and not the author. If anything I’ve done/am doing in the book causes me to want to question the author’s motivation for having done it then I fix the issue to make the question no longer valid. Thus, why I’m writing with ambiguous chapters in my current project (if it’s a transcript then why officially defined chapters, huh?)

  4. Don’t ever do anything other than the standard norm (status quo) unless the story works better that way. And if it does…do it. Do the hell out of it!

  5. Oh, and I forgot about the two novels I published (books 1 and 2 of a series) that both had exactly 162 pages and (I can’t remember the chapter counts off hand) were both 130 something chapters. However works best is what works best. Anyway…how you’ve found a helpful answer 🙂

    • Wow, somehow all your comments was left in my spam box and I only just now saw them! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts!!! How did things turn out for you? I’m reworking my fantasy series currently. I realized it was a bit of a mess in the organization. I just spent eight hours reorganizing it and now I’m working on editing it. I also have a solid idea for this years NaNoWriMo and I’m pretty excited!

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