July 15, 2012

Chapter Titles--yay or nay?


Chapter titles—some people love them, some people could care less if a book has them. Some agents/editors like them, some do not Vicki Motter. Absolute Write has a whole discussion on them here. So does NaNoWriMo. Nathan Bransford took a poll which showed that 39% of the respondees loved them, 37% didn't or skipped them, and 22% had no opinion. Pretty split down the middle...

For me, good (operative word here) titles set the tone, boost excitement, and/or give a quick window into what’s going to happen even if it’s not the way the reader thinks (like a twist on the actual meaning of the title). Personally, I like to use numbered titles with a one or two-word title (so as not to give away too much). Since the English language is so full of homonyms, playing with titles that have double meanings or those not-what-you’d-first-think meanings are extra fun.
Originally, I had not titled the chapters of my first or second book (WIP sequel). I had just numered them, which was sort of surprising given that I love to read chapter titles in other books. When I started a third, totally different, manuscript and did title the chapters, I was pleased. Not only were they fun to create, but they provided sign posts for each section. My crit partners had good things to say about my chapter titles (and I have some pretty darned top-notch crit partners!), so I decided to revisit my first books on this topic. Because I knew the manuscripts better than the lines on my forehead, the process proved easy. It also rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the stories :-).
So, what about you, chapter titles or not?


  1. I love chapter titles! I didn't used them on my first two manuscripts, but I am using them on my latest WIP, and I love 'em. You're right, they're fun to create, and help me remember what is happening in the chapter. I got some very strong (negative) early writer feedback against the chapter titles, and it did make me think about removing them, but I look at it this way-- If the editor/publisher doesn't like them, I don't have any problem leaving them out. No big deal. If the writing is good enough, chapter titles won't kill the deal for me or the agent/editor/publisher. In them meantime, I'm keeping them!
    Great post!

  2. Hmm, I notice chapter titles if they're really good or really bad, but if they're blah they don't even register. Sounds like you're having fun with them, and even if they don't make it into a finished book, it seems like they'd be useful for keeping track of scenes (and re-energizing you apparently) during the rewriting process. I'm not planning on using chapter titles per se, but I would like to do little sketches for the opening page of each chapter, and those would have clues.

  3. Yes, if agent/editor says nay, than I'm gonna say nay, nay, nay! (but still secretly love my titles, he he)

    Like the sketch idea, too :-)

  4. I like titles when I write. They help me focus on the goal of the chapter:) Once in a while I'm clever, but sometimes if I'm stumped on the title it means maybe along the way I missed my chapters direction.