Chapter…What?

Jenn and I are in the developmental edit stage for Chaos Station, first in a series of male/male science fiction romance novels we’re publishing with Carina Press. I hope to have more details to share soon, such as a release date and cover. Until then, I’d like to share some of the fun we’re having while we edit.

Based on some suggestions made by our editor, we decided to add a couple of scenes to the book. This necessitated moving one chapter forward by two slots—making it chapter seventeen instead of fifteen. Maybe. We still haven’t figured out the numbering. Not sure what to number the first new chapter, Jenn labeled it “Chapter Whatever”. Amused by this heading, we came up with some other non-numerical alternates such as “This Is the Chapter Where I Kick Ass” and “This is the Chapter Where I Sex You Up.”

Yeah, this is what we do when we’re not working. This is what else we do:

While some suggested headings didn’t quite make into the manuscript we do actually have “Chapter Whatever x2”, “COMBAT CHAPTER. ALL COMBAT, ALL THE TIME”, “Chapter Fifteen (I think)” and “Chapter Seventeen (Uh huh)”.

These temporary headings make me giggle as I scroll through the document and have me wondering why we couldn’t use similar statements for every chapter in the book. “The Crew Plays Poker” is a pretty good chapter heading. Tells you exactly what’s happening in that chapter. Gets you in the mood for cards and beer. Of course, “EVERYONE DIES” probably isn’t the sort of chapter heading you’d like to see before the big action sequence and “Zed Forgot To Use A Condom” is perhaps a bit more information than you need—right here, right now.

A lot of authors do name their chapters, though. I’ve done it in the past and I really enjoyed coming up with appropriate and sometimes obscure titles, words and phrases that had meaning to me and my characters, and that would hopefully resonate with my readers as well. Some of my favourites have been song titles and lines from poetry. But, as a reader, I rarely take note of chapter headings. In fact, I probably wouldn’t notice if three consecutive chapters were numbered “Eighteen”.

So, do we actually need chapter headings? Well, yeah, we do. When I’m writing, I actually mark all headings with a style so that it’s easy for me to skip through the document using the navigation pane in Word. The same trick is fantastic for skipping back and forth through an ebook. But is the text of the heading as important as the break, the blank space that lets the reader know we’re tripping from a cliffhanger to resolution, drawing in a breath of relief or taking a moment to reach for a tissue?

I guess it depends on what sort of reader you are and what sort of writer you are. After all, a book is a journey for both. Oh, and we’ll be changing our chapter headings back to boring old numbers before we submit the manuscript. Maybe. Probably.

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