To date not one person has said anything about any of the chapter titles of my books. Not my non-fiction tomes, not my novels. There’s me sweating bullets to pick decent ones and not a soul notices. So I decided I’d just skip it from now on. Thus my current novel, the great Australian cricket mangosteen Elvis monkey-knife fighting feminist fairy novel is sans titled chapters.
This was an easy decision to make on account of I’m not very good at titles. Some writers have the title gift.1 I do not. Coming up with a decent title for the whole book just about kills me, I do not need the extra stress of to coming up with one for every bloody chapter. Gah!
But here’s the thing: Untitled chapters make for really tricky navigation. I wind up scrolling through the entire document looking for particular bits because I can’t think of a useful searchable phrase. I can’t remember what happened in “Chapter Six”, but I can remember what happened in a chapter called “Statistical Torpor”.
Yes, you guessed it. I have had to go through and name all the chapters. (So what I said in the first paragraph is now a lie.) Very annoying. Turns out chapter titles are not for readers, they’re for writers. They’re useful little signposts for us to navigate the unruly longness that is a novel. I will never neglect to name my chapters again. The more descriptier the better. Realising that made naming them easier. I forgot all about poetry—seeing as how no one’s going to read them other than me—and stuck to titles that would remind me of what happens in the chapter. Much easier.
Do any of you notice chapter titles? I don’t. I rarely even bother to read the
epigrams epigraphs that writers have sweated blood and tears over (I know because I have sweated blood and tears over epigraphs too). My eyes glaze until I get to story. That’s not just me, right?
- Samuel R. Delany, for example. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand has to be one of my favourite titles of all time. [↩]