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Old 12-16-2012, 12:47 AM   #16
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I agree about too long TOC being a pain. My first book (>140k words) was 21 chapters and split into two parts. On the print edition that sits nicely on 1 page, but on the e-book edition I could see potential issues: both the length and the two-level aspect. The two levels worked on my e-reader but I didn't like it - especially since the prologue comes before Part 1, it just didn't look right to me.

So when I created the epub I made sure the parts were not part of the ncx - resulting in a flat index. Yes it skips the part selection when using the e-reader TOC feature, but I thought that was more practical to use. (The parts remain visible on the TOC page at the start of the book, and as separator "pages" in the content.) I will be curious to see if I get any feedback about that particular aspect.

Chapter titles are interesting too. As a reader I don't really have much of an opinion either way - sometimes they're sort of neat/cute, but I don't really care if they're not there. But when I started writing this project I decided to use chapter titles, mostly because the chapters in my first book seemed to come by their titles fairly naturally - most were written with the title already in place. My problems really came with the second book (and since it's part of the same series I wanted to retain the same style) where I had to work a bit harder to get titles I was happy with (it's amazing how much work you can end up putting into a single word). I've yet to find out how it's going to come out with the third.
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:33 AM   #17
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If you do not have chapter titles, why would you put a TOC in the print edition? I would say even with titles, its pretty rare I come across a TOC in a print fiction novel.
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:55 AM   #18
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Just as a point of reference, Orson Scott Card answers the chapter length question this way...

(src:http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/...-04-01-1.shtml)
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Chapter length is completely arbitrary. You can divide chapters however you want.

Robert Parker, for instance, uses very short chapters in his Spenser novels. Other writers have only five or six chapters in an entire novel.

Some writers divide chapters into sections from one character's point of view, so that the chapters change as often as the point of view shifts.

Some writers divide chapters after climactic scenes; others try to end them on cliffhangers or stunning revelations, so that the reader must turn the page and keep going.

Some writers (and now I'm speaking of myself) tend to begin a novel with short chapters, to create a fast-moving rhythm as the reader is just getting engaged in the story. Later chapters are much longer, on the presumption that the reader who gets this far is already interested and willing to read through much longer movements.

A chapter can be a single word, though this is a huge "special effect" that should only be done once in a career. But it's not rare to have a two- or three-page chapter at some crucial point in a book, because it needs to be set off from everything around it.

In other words, there are no rules. Just remember that each chapter break provides benefits - a sense of closure, of progress, of movement through the book - and imposes costs - a detachment from the story, a place where the book can be set down, an interruption in the onward flow. So you decide for yourself what rhythm and pace you want to establish, and when the costs of a chapter break are worth the benefits.

By the way, there are also "parts" and "volumes," which are longer than chapters and include them. These are used only when needed - they impose an even deeper division and greater cost, but imply a much stronger shift in time, place, or viewpoint, so sometimes these, too, are worth it.
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Old 12-16-2012, 06:17 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
If you do not have chapter titles, why would you put a TOC in the print edition? I would say even with titles, its pretty rare I come across a TOC in a print fiction novel.
If I had not used chapter titles I would not have included the TOC at the front, but I do, so I did. A TOC at the front of print fiction is obviously not mandatory. I would not have said it was rare, but maybe it looks that way because only some fraction of novels have chapter titles, and of those only some fraction decide to use a TOC.

A TOC at the front is ultimately a matter of taste. Assuming I don't get complaints about how my first book was done I imagine I will do the same for the next books in the series ... but may or may not choose to do it on any future project.

I did like your quote from Orson Scott Card - especially the thought about keeping early chapters shorter. I wonder if some of this may be not so much about where you cut those early chapters, but about keeping the start down to small doses - so that it feels like it moves faster.
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Old 12-16-2012, 06:26 AM   #20
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My books blow the bottom of the chapter length currently. My last book 108k words has 90 chapters. But I have been considering changing that. In my stories there are two times I cut a chapter break in:

First - a scene. By a scene, I am thinking of a play. So the actors walk into a room, do some action and leave that room. Chapter break. This yields chapters of like 1500 words.

Second main character change. I.E. the story is following the great detective GMW as he tries to solve the case of the lollypop bandit. The story opens with GMW running for his life from a pack of raving mad babies who want to know why the case is not solved yet. Eventually the POV changes to the bad guy and his horde of lollypops and we learn of his master plan to rule the world by creating an enraged army of babies! Chapter break would happen when the POV moved from GMW to the bad guy.

Currently I use BOTH to break a chapter. If I were to only use the second, and use the first as sub chapters, I would end up with like 1/3rd the number of chapters, maybe less.

Might change it in book five and see if my fans revolt or party.
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Old 12-16-2012, 06:28 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I agree about too long TOC being a pain......


Chapter titles are interesting too. As a reader I don't really have much of an opinion either way - ....
It's even more of a problem with poetry and flash fiction/non-fiction.

I love titles! (even started a thread by that name) whether chapter or book.
In many ways I think they are the most important part of a book and certainly of a story or poem.

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Old 12-16-2012, 10:00 AM   #22
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[...]The story opens with GMW running for his life from a pack of raving mad babies [...]
Got me in one. If I see a pack of raving mad babies, or even only mildly annoyed ones, I would certainly be running for my life.

I'm not sure what to say about having 90 chapters ... other than it's not the way I work, but I'm not really sure how to describe what I do - it's very much just a feeling that this is how much I want to tell here.

I'm reading "Lisey's Story" by Stephen King at the moment (in Trade paperback) and it has parts (with titles), chapters (with titles) and sub-chapters (with no titles) - and at a guess it must run into that sort of number of divides, or maybe even more. (I'm not enjoying it much, but that has little to do with the chapter breaks.)
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Old 12-16-2012, 09:03 PM   #23
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Chapter splits should be meaningful. There should be a chapter heading too. I also like "generally speaking" a little pithy statement, prose or verse, or quote with it.

More than 10 in my opinion is generally too many, but yes there should be a TOC.

That is not to say that you can't split the chapters in meaningful ways, on the inside pages, and have little headings there also, but if you clutter the TOC, you end up looking like you are making notes for a book report.

There is also the mechanism of dividing the chapters up into books for the really long efforts especially across multiple volumes. There you have a lot of opportunity for interesting presentation.
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Old 12-16-2012, 09:53 PM   #24
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It's even more of a problem with poetry and flash fiction/non-fiction.

I love titles! (even started a thread by that name) whether chapter or book.
In many ways I think they are the most important part of a book and certainly of a story or poem.

I was thinking about this a bit more, and I wonder if (sometimes) titles mean more to the writer than they do to most readers - in longer fiction anyway.

My first two books all have one-word chapter titles (and I expect the next books in the series to be the same) - except the prologue. This started because most of the early chapters were written with a particular theme, some particular mood or idea I was trying to get across. Often the word came early in the writing of the chapters, at other times I'd come to what I felt was the end of a chapter and look back and see the title in what I'd written. It felt right so I kept doing it, and found myself amused with the way the titles were often ambiguous, and/or had multiple points of reference through the chapter.

It hasn't always worked out exactly that way, but often enough that it became something I started to pay definite attention to. But I'm can't be sure that a reader will notice, or care even if they do. In other words, I'm not really sure that they add that much to the books. But I will, of course, be self-righteously happy if readers come back and say they liked them.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:01 PM   #25
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I was thinking about this a bit more, and I wonder if (sometimes) titles mean more to the writer than they do to most readers - in longer fiction anyway.

I can say as a reader, before I became a writer, I seldom came across titles in fiction books on chapters. When I did, I mostly ignored them.

Now as a writer, I see how they can be a helpful tool... but still think for the most part readers will ignore them.
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Old 12-17-2012, 05:30 AM   #26
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Strive to produce what the best readers, the superior minds will appreciate.

In my other line of work besides writing, I pride myself on putting together control technology that works well, and the other day it pleased me no end when a technician also complimented me on my "notes" on some old drawings. He said that unlike most, there was always material that was very helpful in case of problems or if modifications needed to be made.

No one may attain perfection in this life, in this world, but that doesn't mean we should be satisfied with a minimum job.
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