For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Should you list the chapter names in the contents? When I began writing I always used to have a Contents in my works of fiction, with a full list of the chapter headings. I felt that this was what authors are supposed to do. But now, after many years of writing, I am not so sure.
I am concerned that if the chapter headings are accurate that it may give away too much of the plot. People might scan down the chapter list in the Contents, and work out what is coming next. It is something which I find myself doing when I read a novel.
Recently I finished reading Against All Things Ending by Stephen Donaldson. It is the third novel in the four book series The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, set in the magical world called the Land. As I read the book, I kept flicking back to the Contents page to see what was coming up next: The Amends of the Ranyhyn, Great Need, the Pure One and the High God, and so on. Sometimes you can guess just from the chapter title some of the things which might happen.
I like surprises. You want to surprise the reader. So, while my books still have chapter titles – rather than just Chapter One, Chapter Two, and so on – I am no longer putting the chapter titles in a contents page. Not for my novels, anyway. Of course should I ever write anything which is factual then it will have a Contents which includes chapter headings, and so on. I have contents for my books of poetry, and for my various collections of short stories. You need to see the title of a short story, I think, in any collection.
But I have moved away from Contents for novels, even though I always used to have such pages (and I still have them, in some novels which I started years ago, but have not yet got around to completing).
To illustrate my point concerning Contents and chapter titles here is the Contents from my novel Crowmantle:
Chapter One: Everything Begins, Everything Ends
Chapter Two: Pleasant Valley Saturday
Chapter Three: Have You Ever Danced With Tim Burton In The Pale Moonlight?
Chapter Four: “Who Do You Think You Are, Bloody Kolchak?”
Chapter Five: Legend Of The Were-Crow
Chapter Six: Do Not Suffer A Witch To Live
Chapter Seven: “Too Derivative”
Chapter Eight: He Wouldn’t Let It Lie!
Chapter Nine: Looking Through Gary’s Gimlet Eyes
Chapter Ten: Eighteenth Century Bonnie Crofter Blues
Chapter Eleven: No Books
Chapter Twelve: The Dreams Of Paul Brenner
Chapter Thirteen: Touched By The Skeins Of Sorcery
Chapter Fourteen: This Creature, Or Man, Or Devil
Chapter Fifteen: The Crowmantle Song
Chapter Sixteen: Your Adversary The Devil
Chapter Seventeen: Chance Meeting (There Is No Such Thing As Chance)
Chapter Eighteen: Raven
Chapter Nineteen: The Haunted Woods
Chapter Twenty: Mr Brenner, I Presume?
Chapter Twenty One: Duel
Chapter Twenty Two: The Last Meeting Between Crowmantle And Rookhaunt
Chapter Twenty Three: Yogh (It’s Pronounced Like A ‘G’)
Chapter Twenty Four: The Crowmantle Revenge Squad
Chapter Twenty Five: Rookhaunt Goodbye
Chapter Twenty Six: Nonsense, Like A Crow
Chapter Twenty Seven: The Bitterest Rivalry
Chapter Twenty Eight: They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There
Chapter Twenty Nine: The Whisper Men Are Coming
Chapter Thirty: A Slight Difference Of View
Chapter Thirty One: There Can Only Be One!
Chapter Thirty Two: On The Trail Of The Lonesome Mage
Chapter Thirty Three: The Parliament Of Crows
Chapter Thirty Four: Whispers In The Dark
Chapter Thirty Five: The Magic Was In Him From The Start
Chapter Thirty Six: Dead Ends And Deader Endings
Chapter Thirty Seven: Chiaroscuro
Chapter Thirty Eight: Arthur Daley, He’s Not Alright
Chapter Thirty Nine: Silence
Chapter Forty: Crowmantle
While not all of the chapter titles give a clue as to what the reader will encounter on the page (or on the Kindle screen) some of them do give a rather big clue.
I could, of course, move entirely away from using chapters. There is no law stating that novels have to be divided into chapters. I have written a few novels which don’t have any chapters (Shiloh, for example). But I find, both as a reader and as an author, that novels benefit from bring in chapters. You can read a chapter a night, if a reader. Or, if an author, you can use chapters as a way of easily structuring and planning your book. So I think that chapters will stay.
Anyway, what do you think?
What Am I Reading Now? For some reason a lot of the forums of which I am a member like asking people what book they are reading at a particular moment in time. I go along with this, although I don’t really understand why people are that interested in what books a person has beside the bed. But I play along. It is human interaction, after all; and, as a near hermit, it is one of the few which I do.
So here is a recap of the books which I have read in the past few months:
Stephen Donaldson – Against All Things Ending
DC Comics: Year By Year (Updated Edition)
Stephen King – Cujo
Terry Pratchett – Raising Steam
Andrew Martin – The Necropolis Railway
Giles Milton – The Riddle and the Knight
I am not a fast reader, if that list seems a little anaemic. As to the books beside my bed, they include:
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (am working on a new translation)
The Works of Edgar Allen Poe
The Poems of Alexander Poe
Plato: The Last Days of Socrates
Edgar Rice Burroughs: Gods of Mars
The next post will hopefully be in another week or so.