Day 19: To divide and conquer (your novel)

To chapter or not to chapter? That is today’s topic.

I don’t write in chapters. I believe that I am in the minority when I choose not to do so, though of course I know others who write that way, part or all of the time. For me, it just isn’t compatible with my writing style, which is haphazard and disjointed, so I decided on July 1st to not worry about it. And that is exactly what I’ve done for the last 19 days: I haven’t given it another thought, and today I broke 50,000 words, so my methods are working fine for a first draft.

If I can figure out how to tell a coherent story without chapters, then I probably won’t include them in my revised novel, either. Some of my favorite novels use different structure entirely, so I feel that I am in good company. My natural writing style is very similar to the polished result in Unwind by Neal Shusterman. As a novel, it is comprised of larger sections, split into many small scenes, with each scene from a single perspective. There are no standard chapters, and the perspectives cover more than just the main characters: even random passersby have their moments, without feeling the need to become more important than they are.

Because I do intend to focus on my main characters, my overall style will be different from even my own example novels, but that was always going to be true anyway. I want to retain the option of inserting flashbacks and internal monologues, and jumping between characters as quickly as the story requires, even if that gives a character only a few paragraphs of their own. Therefore my preference would be for a lack of chapters.

In this case, of course, I am only speaking about my current novel, not anyone else’s. I don’t have any problem with chapters in books generally. And I wouldn’t really recommend writing without chapters because that structure can be much more helpful than leaving yourself a mess to sort out later. A chapter-free first draft was just the best course of action for me this month.

Today’s word count: 2,015

Total word count: 50,141

Today’s excerpt: It wasn’t the clear insanity of Coralie in this moment that made Mel scared. She hadn’t actually been frightened by Coralie before, simply irritated and worried. After all, a scary twelve-year-old girl is still a twelve-year-old girl, and Mel knew that no matter their differences, Audrey would keep her in line. But now, as Coralie held her in place with the blade and an odd, searching scrutiny, Mel was terrified. Coralie’s knife hand was steady, practiced. And the hand pressed against Mel’s mouth wasn’t clammy or shaky, even with adrenaline. It was as cool and dry as she would expect from a veteran, or a sociopath. This was not a child, she acknowledged in her mind while she held her gaze steady. This was a super-villain in training.


Day 19: To divide and conquer (your novel)

5 thoughts on “Day 19: To divide and conquer (your novel)

  1. I’m so proud of your for your word count!! I hit 20,000 today, which means I only wrote about 200-300 words, but….it was all I felt I could do.

    About chapters…….I’m writing without them. And for the next couple of days I’m going to be writing from MC (main character) flashbacks to college and growing up years and then switch to writing some stuff from The Keepers–from when Ean was 13 or younger. So….I support non-chapters.

    When I edit, I’ll revise in chapters. Cuz, that’s how I work. But….I’m cool with both styles. 🙂

    1. Toni Travis says:

      Thank you! 🙂 I am proud of you, too, 20k is amazing in such a short time!! And some days are just like that. Getting anything done on bad days is still a personal triumph.

      Your upcoming plans sound like a really fun process. I know that you tend to be a more linear writer, so that is awesome.

  2. I didn’t even realise Unwind didn’t have chapters….I’m going to have to go back to my copy and check. Ah I see that he’s done it using different perspectives. I imagine they work like chapters though. Just something to break up the narrative and gives the reader a convenient place to stop if they need to. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to write unless it’s in chapters but maybe that’s because I write in first person/present so I don’t have many other options.

    1. Toni Travis says:

      Yes, you’re right, they’re just not traditionally structured chapters. I hadn’t thought about it that way. 🙂

    2. Toni Travis says:

      I think that I would have a really hard time with first person because I never want to see my fictional worlds from just one perspective. The next idea I have will be in first person though, lol, so that should be fun.

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