Posted tagged ‘Finnegans Deciphered’

chapter titles – any thoughts?

February 27, 2012

I realize it’s a bit premature to think that my chapter titles in Finnegans Deciphered are anything like final, but I don’t think it’s too early to ponder them and the work they can do.

The number 17 is important in the story. It happens that there are 17 chapters in my novel. I had thought briefly about making that happen deliberately for some thematic connection, but I realized that I wasn’t sure just what that connection would signify, so I abandoned the idea. Plus, though I knew I had finished up with 17 chapters in the first draft (merely by coincidence), I suspected I would be chopping one of the longer chapters in two, thus giving me 18 chapters. But I didn’t since that would have given the novel three chapters devoted mostly to a single event in the story, and I thought that was drawing too much attention to something that wasn’t that important to the plot.

But that’s not the point of this post. Rather, I want your thoughts/opinions on my chapter titles. I realize you don’t know the plot of the story, but that’s actually good for my nefarious purpose. My intent with these titles is to be both playful and intriguing. My notion is that someone might pick up the novel in a bookstore, not knowing anything of the plot, and scan the list of chapter titles. And if they are titled well, the individual will be intrigued enough to want to read the novel based on no more than what is hinted there.

So here are the titles as they currently exist:

  1. In which Greg doubts he is welcome
  2. In which Ann and Greg meet their fellow guests
  3. In which Greg has a date with history
  4. In which Ann takes a turn about town
  5. In which Ann and Greg have a pretty good lunch
  6. In which Ann and Greg have a very nice dinner
  7. In which Ann and Greg have a nice conversation with Ava and Willows
  8. In which Ann and Greg go Sunday cycling
  9. In which Ann and Greg spin and spin
  10. In which a sleepy afternoon is interrupted
  11. In which many revealing words pass among new friends
  12. In which Greg doesn’t feel very good but soldiers through the morning
  13. In which Greg misses the point but presses on regardless
  14. In which Ann holds court
  15. In which Greg grows weary of the chase
  16. In which Greg learns there is more
  17. In which Ann has one surprise left

So there you go. Based on these, do you think someone might be intrigued? Do they do that kind of work?

Just as the right book title can often make the difference, I think good chapter titles can be a sort of marketing tool as well. At the very least, I think a writer should give them some thought even if a reader never does.

I suspect that the “In which” business might be a little cloying. It’s actually meant to mimic a writing style of old. A hundred-year-old novel also plays an important part in the story, so I feel permitted to use this format in my chapter titles. I can remember reading some old works (published in the same era as my fictional novel — which may be one of the few times a person can call a novel “fictional” and not be redundant) where each page had a unique title in the header.

Of course I can’t know that the final work would even have a page listing chapter titles, but I can’t concern myself with that possibility now. Right now I am trying to make the novel coherent and whole. I’m trying to make every component contribute and be worth its weight.

Out of my mind

February 28, 2011

Not an hour goes by that I don’t have some idea or impression or solution for my novel-in-hibernation, Larger than Life. (As I noted before, I’ve even had this happen in my sleep.) If I’m not near my computer, I jot my note on a piece of paper (with a mechanical pencil, of course) to transcribe it and incorporate it later.

By the time I’m at the computer, I usually have a pile of these notes waiting for attention. And if it’s not for Larger than Life it’s for Finnegans Deciphered (the one I am working on right now) or for any of a half dozen novel and story ideas I’m gestating.

I have no complaint about this. It’s how I evolve my ideas, and eventually enough of it gels into a whole.

What’s curious to me, though, is that absolutely none of this is happening with my novel, The Sleep of Reason. I’ve finished that novel, and I’m (still) shopping it around, but unlike everything else I’m working on, no fresh ideas are coming to me for it. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Is it because that novel truly is finished? Or is it that I have closed my mind to it, believing it is finished? Or am I simply not allowing myself to give any more creative effort to it. I don’t know, and I don’t suppose I care either. The ferment that I’m currently experiencing for my other efforts had happened to me at the same pace when I was toiling through The Sleep of Reason. I was in the thick of it back in those days (not so long ago either). Which is why I’m a little surprised that it’s not still happening.

Modest progress on Deciphered

February 6, 2011

I’m making modest progress on Finnegans Deciphered. By my most recent tally, I’ve written 17,000+ words over six chapters. I guess that’s decent enough, but I’m at that point where I worry that I don’t have enough story to flesh out a novel-length manuscript. I doubt that will be the case, but I guess I need to consider some subplots in keeping with the theme. They can gestate in my mind as I work away at the central story. (Actually, I already have several of these, but they just haven’t come up in the plot yet.)

I’ve also reached the point where I have amassed enough material (and drafts) that I need to be more efficient in my file naming and storage. Some years ago I had a hard drive crash, and I lost most of a different Finnegans novel I was working on at the time. (I think that enough of it was scattered among several emails to myself that I could still resurrect the story, but the whole event was so traumatic that I continue to need some distance from it before I go back to that novel. Plus, it didn’t feel like a very strong work at the time anyway, but that’s a different post for a different day.) So I’ve begun a more consistent file naming convention, and I’ve shunted my other drafts to an archive directory where I can retrieve them should I need to. This way I can move forward without losing anything. I’m less nervous this way.

Finally, I’ve begun giving names to my chapters. I never do this, though I’m not sure why. I guess I’ve always thought that chapter names are either twee or insufficient or they telegraph the story too much. Whatever the reason, I’d never done this before. But I am now, I guess as an experiment. Chapter two, for example is currently titled “In which Greg has a date with history.” Yes, it’s cute, and I may not keep it, but I am trying to imagine someone browsing the book at the store and seeing a teasing sort of progress in the chapter titles, enticing the person to (buy and) read the novel. We’ll see how it goes.

In other news, Larger than Life continues to haunt my creative mind. As I’ve said in recent posts, I have not fully abandoned work on this novel; I certainly continue to make copious notes about it, but I’m reluctant to give up my all-too-few writing opportunities to it when Finnegans Deciphered is now moving along. I guess I need to find a way to steal even more hours from the rest of my life to devote to it.

And then there’s this short story that’s been badgering me to be written. What’s the collective noun for unwritten creative material? An “overflow” of stories? A “bellow” of stories?