Nowadays, I strive to always finish a book, no matter how long it takes. Pride and Prejudice famously took me three months and a few days to read, and there is only one (or maybe two) books on my bookshelf which I haven’t read. However, as I write this, I am struggling through George Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter. Even though I’ve just got to the good bit.
When I read Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett for my reading group a few months ago, I noticed something that none of my friends did: Pratchett doesn’t use chapters. Rather, big sections are differed between by a mark on the page, but the next section doesn’t start at the top of the next. You might have seen this in books with chapters: a little asterisk in the middle of the page, indicating moving on… Kind of like this:
When writing, you basically have the complete (well, almost, unless your agent/editor decides to change it, but it is your book…) on how to present it on the inside. So, you can have chapters, or you can choose not to. You might have loads of chapters with only a few lines in between, or choose to not have chapters but have section breakers instead. All of these have their own strengths and weaknesses and a lot of it does depend on the book you’re writing.
Most people assume: books = chapters. But that isn’t always the case. So, when writing your next book, why not think of doing something else, something different? If, for example, you’re writing a fantasy or dystopia, you might find it easier to use section headings instead. In 1984, George Orwell did something similar having a “Part I” and “Part II”, with no chapters in those parts, and used asterisks like Pratchett. Tolkien, however, has long chapters, which are clearly defined as such.
The greats broke the rules, and so can you, so, if it works for you and for your book, why not think about something different in your writing?