I am looking for a wall right now, for the better beating of my head. I have the first compiled draft of Makepeace in front of me, and I’m agonising about how to ‘chunk it up’. It’s annoying when the formatting of the text is taking me more time to sort out than the actual content of the novel itself.
In Makepeace, more than any other of the Shield stories, the date/place of each chapter/section is important. It’s the kind of thing where on TV or films, you have the little caption writer type it out at the bottom of the screen: Makepeace Colony, Septimus 6217. It’s *easy* when it comes to TV! But poor me has to try and find a way of doing that in text.
I’m including subtitles where I need to. The issues come when
- the scene/incident is too long to be held within a single chapter, but covers two or three of them; or
- where there are date/place shifts within chapters, each two or three pages long.
I’m trying to come up with a way of doing this that is simple and – above all – clean and unfussy. It’s proving to be quite hard to do that. Yes, I can litter the text with subheadings, but when it comes to the first one, where the action spreads over two or more chapters, do I have to keep littering it with subheadings, so the reader doesn’t get lost? That’s where it stops being clean and unfussy.
I thought of taking the text out of chapters altogether, and having, instead, a series of scenes, each with their date/place as sort-of-chapter-titles. They’d vary in length from two/three pages to twenty or thirty. But when we get to Section 3, when Bennet reaches Makepeace, there are fifty or sixty pages that would all sit under the same sub-heading. I mean, Great Wall Of Text, Batman! That has to be split into manageable sub-sections, somehow.
I’m going slightly nuts here trying to work out how to split the text up into manageable, readable chunks.
And you know, it’s not what’s important. What’s important is the story. Right? I know that. I hope that readers will just want to know what Bennet is going to find on Makepeace and then sit with him through the aftermath, holding his hand and saying “There! There!”. I know that. Truly I do.
Trouble is, I’m a visual person as well as a words one. How it will all look on the page, how to make it easy to follow and accessible using the tools the compositor gives us—text, fonts, layout—is important to me too.
So, what would you do? Have you ever faced the problem where your novel (and I’m talking nearly 90k words here) doesn’t split itself into nice easy chapters but wants to be split in other, less handy ways? Any advice to offer?
Sweet pea, you know the editors will probably change everything, right? 😉 I tend to not worry about chapter length, though I know some authors (and readers) do. But to be honest, I leave most of those kinds of decisions to the publisher to manage, as so much of the final layout depends on what they want. I might set it up how I think it should be, but I am fully prepared for it all to change in editing…
I know, this is just me being a little CDO* about laying it out so I find it logical and reasonable to follow.
* That’s like being OCD, but with the letters in alphabetical order. The way they should be.