View Full Version : Chapter Breaks - yay or nay?

10-04-2006, 08:15 AM
OK, I'm just starting a YA chick-lit and wanted to know: Is it completely and utterly unacceptable to have an entire ms with no chapter breaks? I was kind of thinking of doing, like, three main sections-- but no individual chapters. I'd love to hear your take on this; about any type of novel, not just chick-lit.

Sorry if I'm posting in the wrong place, and thanks in advance for your feedback. :D

10-04-2006, 08:28 AM
There are lots of books that don't have chapters per se but I would recommend at least a couple of spaces between paragraphs if there is a scene or time change. Go to the bookstore and look at a bunch of YA. You'll see a huge variety. The same for adult fiction. Whatever works to tell your story is the best structure to use.

10-04-2006, 08:30 AM
Yeah, I do have the regular spacing between paragraphs (it's not some huge mass of text-- thank the lord), I just don't have chapter headings. Thanks for your input. :)

10-04-2006, 08:59 AM
Chapter breaks are a good place for your reader to put their bookmark. I worry about chapter breaks after my first draft is written. I can see now where they best belong. If you have chapter breaks and don't like them, you can always delete them later. :)

10-04-2006, 02:43 PM
IMHO, chapter breaks are sometimes structural elements in themselves.

They can stand for sharp discontinuties in time and space. They also close off dramatic scenes in a definate way.

In addition, the start of a chapter is a good place to dump a vignette, character sketch, transition, or setup, since the reader will assume it leads to some sort of development.

For example:

pain. Eric clutched his thigh, felt hot, sticky fluid. Not blood. Don't call it blood. A red mist oozed over the world, and the spotlights faded. Somebody very far away was screaming.

Chapter 12

Eric hunched over his lawnmower and prodded at the grass tangling the blade. He sighed and reached for his penknife. It was going to be one of those days.
"Daddy, will you come play football with us?"
Eric grimaced. "If you don't mind your friends seeing your old dad limp."
Siglinda giggled. "I told them you got it in Nam."
Eric struggled to his feet. "Old, but not that old."

Used this way, chapter breaks are a little like the white spaces between frames ina graphic novel.

10-04-2006, 05:37 PM
OK, I'm just starting a YA chick-lit and wanted to know: Is it completely and utterly unacceptable to have an entire ms with no chapter breaks? I was kind of thinking of doing, like, three main sections-- but no individual chapters.

What's the point of writing it this way? How will it help you tell your story better than with traditional chapter breaks?

Definte those questions to your own satisfaction, and then you'll have your answer.

10-04-2006, 05:43 PM
Anything can be made to work, but I often get frustrated with long chapters, let alone no chapters. Unless there's a really strong reason for not including chapter breaks, then I wouoldn't do it.

10-04-2006, 05:47 PM
I dislike books that don't have traditional chapter breaks. Even if you do have line breaks it still seems tiring without a full stop. In fact, if I pick it up at the bookstore and leaf through it and don't see any chapters I'll more than likely put it back without even giving it a chance. But that's just me. Not sure how representative I am of anything.

Kate Thornton
10-04-2006, 05:51 PM
Yes to chapter breaks.

They serve two functions, one for the reader and one for the writer. As a reader, I need resting places. As a writer, I need to emphasize breaks in the continuity where I shift gears.

10-04-2006, 05:58 PM
Well, it's your book. Most people prefer chapter breaks -- they are logical "breathing" point. If it's one long section, mentally people get bogged down. But I am not going to say what works and what doesn't work for you. Just write it, then let your readers tell you what they think.

10-04-2006, 06:23 PM
I never saw the point of chapters, personally. All of Pratchett's stuff works perfectly well without them.

10-04-2006, 06:23 PM
I would recommend very short chapters, but I think you do need to have some type of breaks in between. At least sectionally:



It's up to you, but you need to have breaks. Read some other YA novels, and examine their approach.

10-04-2006, 06:28 PM
I think chapter breaks tend to be random, and aren't necessary to story structure, but have some other uses that favor having them.

I'm more concerned about whether your story is at least broken into scenes, which are necessary structural elements. If it does have scene breaks, then breaking into chapters is just a matter of labeling one of the scene breaks as a new chapter every once in a while, so I wouldn't think you'd care, one way or the other. Which makes me think you may not have scene breaks.

Do you have distinct scenes? If not, that is something to address, rather than worrying about chapter breaks.


10-04-2006, 07:25 PM
I'm a fan of them. I'm even using the in my WIP as I write it.

10-04-2006, 08:24 PM

Stephen King's Dolores Clairborne was one long narrative completely unbroken by chapters. While it was a very good read, it never gave me a chance to breathe--a very uncomfortable feeling.

Please use chapters or at least scene breaks.

10-04-2006, 08:40 PM
All of Pratchett's stuff works perfectly well without them.

Explains why I've never read anything by him.

10-04-2006, 08:51 PM
I dislike books that don't have traditional chapter breaks.

As a reader, I agree with Ferret. I find it very hard to read a book without chapters. I like the natural stopping point.

10-04-2006, 09:23 PM
Thanks everyone for your help! I DO have perfectly normal scene breaks, so the the book isn't just a massive blob of text. I was just a little hesitant about putting in "Chapter One," "Chapter Two," because. . . well, now I can't even remember. ;) So I guess I'll add chapter headings after all. Thanks for the input!

10-04-2006, 10:40 PM
I never saw the point of chapters, personally. All of Pratchett's stuff works perfectly well without them.

Matter of taste, maybe. I find Pratchett completely unreadable, and one of the major reasons is his lack of chapters.

10-04-2006, 10:45 PM
Please Chapter Breaks,

Without them I wouldn't ever get any sleep because the chapter break gives me a goal point to read to before shutting out the lights. Without them I don't think I would have the disipline to set it down on my own. Further more when I lose my place chapters are a quick and easy place to remember the general area I was in without reading each and every page all over again.

Jenan Mac
10-04-2006, 10:56 PM
I'm also chiming in in favor of chapter breaks. And short chapters.

10-04-2006, 11:05 PM
I'm definitely Pro chapter breaks. They're like potty breaks, for the brain.

10-04-2006, 11:57 PM
I can tell you from experience that both agents and publishers will demand chapter breaks--more than you think are necessary. It is the trend in publishing to go for shorter and shorter chapters. I suppose it has to do with the ever dwindling attention span of the average reader, but I try not to think about that.

Wait, where was I?

Oh right, chapters. My own novel of some 100,000 words was originally broken into only 9 chapters. My publisher had a good laugh over that, sent it to editing, and it was returned to me chopped into 30. Three-oh.

As each of my chapters begins with a quotation, it meant I had to come up with 21 more interesting/engaging/philosophical quips. ie, more work for me. Being notoriously lazy, this did not sit well with me.

I'm afraid this trend is only going to continue. To that end, I have written my next novel so that no chapter is longer than 135 words, which my personal studies indicates takes about the same amount of time to read as it takes the average person to take the average pee. (more on my studies later).

I came to this decision after realizing that this is now the longest amount of time the modern reader is willing to concentrate on anything. Ah well, back to my Playstation.