Friday, February 12, 2010

Thanks, Terry. . .

Terry Pratchett says that his books don't have chapters because life doesn't have chapters.

Fair point. I think I had read three Pratchett books before I noticed the lack of chapters so he may be on to something.

I didn't write my current WIP with chapters either. I didn't plan it that way - it just made more sense to divide it by time-sections. All this stuff happens in the same year, then we fade out and it's two years later, then we fade out and it's four years later again. . . there were natural divisions, but they weren't chapter-shaped.

Until some of the divisions got kinda long, and now I'm doing one of the most thankless tasks know to writer-kind - figuring out where the chapters are.

It's thankless for two reasons. Either the divisions are obvious (this happens 98% of the time), so all you can think is 'Why didn't I just do this the first bloody time round? Now I have to remember whether I typed Chapter 27 or Chapter 28 seven pages ago!'

Or else they're not.

I have a single page, which spans a month. I feel it wants to stay in the book, but at one page long, it can't be a chapter. It can't be squished into the chapter before it, because it ends with quite a big 'goodbye' moment, nor can it be merged with the chapter after it, because that starts with someone going into labour (really, is there a more textbook 'beginning' moment?).

One solution would be to open with the labour, flashback to sum up the last month, and then keep going. As in:
Rosie was lucky. The pains didn't start at night.
She had been in a strange state for the last month. . .

But I do that all the fecking time, and sometimes I have to, because my novel makes such big temporal jumps. I'm not sure this extract quite merits doing it again.

So I feel it has to go. I'll read through it, pick out the important bits and slot them in after the labour starts - assuming that Rosie has enough time to think about them, that is, what with being in labour :)


  1. Hi

    But can't chapters be just one page? There can't be a page limit to a chapter could there? A chapter can be half a page? Can't they? Can't your month be a chapter? Shame to get rid of it if it adds to the overall story?

    Oh now you see I'm most confused and need to consult the fab Mr Pratchett...!


    GOOD LUCK working out your chapters!

    Take care

  2. Kitty, I definitely think they can, and I've read books with short chapters - and chapters of varying lengths - that worked really well. But my chapters tend to be reasonably long and one very short one just seems wrong in this particular story. . .

    I will be trying to keep it if I can, but it has been earmarked for demolition if it doesn't work . . . poor thing, but I think most of the atmosphere of it can be worked in elsewhere.


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