I’m around 45,000 words into what will probably be about a 55,000 word story. As I was typing away a few days ago, I thought, “You’ve done it again. You’ve forgotten about chapters.”
I remember when I was just about to send Threaded Through Time, Book Two to my editor, and I do mean just about. I was writing the email. I’d already attached the Word file. And I thought, “Oh, fudge! (yeah, right). You haven’t chopped the freaking (yeah, right) story up into chapters.”
So I went back into the Word file and rather arbitrarily added page breaks and chapter headings. I do try to end a chapter at a point that makes sense, but I don’t give the matter much thought beyond that.
When I realized that I wasn’t bothering with chapters (again) with my work in progress, I wondered how I’d feel if I bought a fiction print book that had only scene breaks—no chapters. I say fiction because I totally get why chapters are important for non-fiction.
As a reader, would I find a fiction print book with no chapters weird? Well, yeah, but only because I’m used to having chapters. I’m sure after reading a few books without them, I’d forget about it. I only think about chapters when I’m ready to turn out the light, or take a break. “I’ll just read to the end of the chapter.”
Sometimes that stresses me out, because there are still ten pages to go. It starts to weigh on my mind. I feel pressured. It sounds silly, but sometimes that’s how I feel. So I’ve started to turn the light off at the end of the current scene, and, hey, the world hasn’t come to an end.
When reading an eBook, I don’t need chapters at all. When I open a book, the eReader takes me right to where I left off. Chapters, shmapters. Who needs them?
Shattered Lives, the longest story in the Rymellan series, is 45,000 words long. No chapters. Because I was in “installment mode,” it never occurred to me to break up the story that way. I haven’t received any complaints. Not about that aspect of the story, anyway.
Now, I can see why chapters can be handy. “What, you want me to vacuum? Sure, I’ll just read to the end of this chapter—which is 150 pages long, by the way.”
“Wow, I love what happened in Chapter Five!” Okay, nobody ever says that. Hmm.
I won’t stop breaking my longer stories into chapters. There are times to buck convention. This isn’t one of them. But I’ll continue to write stories without considering chapters until the last minute. That just seems to be how it is for me.
What do you think? Are chapters necessary? Are they a requirement for print books, but not eBooks (or the other way around)? Could you read a novel with no chapter breaks, or would it be weird?