Saturday, February 17, 2018

Chaptering

The Ashes of Home is into its final rounds of reading and editing. I’m at the stage where I’m kinda thinking how many more times do I have to read this thing? Let’s just get it off to the book designer!

However, my pre-publishing process this time around included a new step that I’ve not gone through before - and almost forgot about in the excitement! Inserting chapter breaks.

I’ve talked about this approach a couple of times before, where I’ve written the draft as a series of scenes without bothering too much how to break it up into chapters. It certainly paid dividends during rounds of edits where I’ve been able to easily move things around and even insert whole new threads.

Now I’ve got past that point, and decided the text and order was settled, it was time to break the story out into chapters. This proved an interesting exercise in its own right. I flipped back and forth between my scene summary list and the actual text, looking for suitable chapter units.

It was a bit of a back-and-forth game, trying to ensure chapters were logically coherent, and not too long or too short. There were some points where I felt a natural chapter break should occur, and I tried to work around those.

While I was drafting, I broke the text into more scenes than I strictly needed to. Anywhere there was a natural potential break, I put in a scene break. Some of these I ended up rolling together - with a regretful sigh ... yes, this would have been a great cliffhanger, but the real chapter break comes just a little later. Let’s not make it too disjointed.

While I draft, I divide the manuscript up into a dozen or so separate documents for ease of editing and navigation. I have always expected those major divisions to also signal new chapters. In this case I surprised myself  a couple of times by continuing chapters from the end of one document into the next. I don’t think I’d have even considered that possibility before.

I even did a couple of last minute scene order swaps at this late stage. It’s surprising what a different perspective on things like flow you get when you take this aerial perspective.

One last thing I noticed, which I really didn’t expect, was a lot of pleasing patterns and symmetries in the point of view switches within many chapters ...

10 comments:

  1. Chapter breaks are the last thing I create. Like you, I leave a lot of potential breaks to choose from in the story itself.

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  2. Alex, good to know I'm not alone in that. It's simply not an approach I've heard about before, but it makes a lot of sense.

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  3. You know, that was the hardest part of my self-publishing experiment. Then I wondered...why? Do we ever click on the Chapter breaks when reading on kindle?

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  4. Hi Ian - it sounds as though you're learning a lot with this book ... and that aerial approach will hold you in good stead for the future. I'm not sure I could write without any breaks ... but as I haven't tried - I don't know.

    Cheers Hilary

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  5. I create chapter outlines to help me plot and stay focused, so I put in chapter breaks as I go.

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  6. Denise, for me it has nothing to do with ease of navigation in an ebook. To my mind, chapters are part of the structure of a book (like scenes, paragraphs, and sentences) and therefore important to pay attention to.

    Hilary, I certainly don't write without breaks. Quite the opposite. It's just that this time around I only worried about scene breaks (or potential breaks) and left the aggregation into chapters until the end.

    Chrys, I do get that people who like to outline in any detail will likely have the chapters figured out also. I only outline very lightly. Different writer, different process :)

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  7. I'm actually also working on my chapter breaks at the moment, but I think I'm doing mine earlier than you did.

    I'm still revising, but I figured I need to make the chapters flow better and more cohesively to make up for the fact that I'd be putting my readers through 260k(plus) words. XD

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    1. PS let me know if you need another pair of eyes on your story. :-)

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  8. With my first novel, I prepared an outline of sorts before I started, so I had a basic idea of what I wanted to happen on a chapter-by-chapter basis. This time around, I started entering chapter breaks as I went along, but my whole process was less rigid this time, so I eventually skipped making set chapter breaks until the whole thing was written. Now, like you, I'm STILL rereading and editing. I THOUGHT I was done until I sent the manuscript to my Kindle for a "final" read-through to check for any typos. (I don't know why, but I pick up minute errors much more readily on the Kindle than I do on the computer.) Anyhow, surprise! I'm editing the daylights out of it again. Maybe THIS time will be the charm.

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  9. Misha, thanks for the offer but I'm on my final read-through now. A review would be welcome when it's out there though :)

    Susan, I find a change in reading medium helps show things up. I always have at least one go-through on paper, but I'm spotting errors that I didn't notice even there. I've been told a change of font can help too. This time around I simply enlarged the view a bit and it made a big difference.

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