Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Chapter Length when reading Out Loud

Posted on Goodreads an opinion I have about Kate DeCamillo's chapter length and it got me thinking. Do writers consider chapter lengths? Does Kate?

Working on Catalina, my second novel, (soon to be published by Dragonfall Press) I tried to consider chapter lengths. I wanted to keep them short so that they could be read out loud by a parent (or an older child) to a young child. Kate's chapters are a perfect length for this. I'd read Tiger Rising or Winn-Dixie to the kids at night and the chapter always stopped at a great point and the children were always ready to turn over and go to sleep. She has it nailed down pat.

Too many books go on and on and the child drops to sleep before the chapter is finished (creating all sorts of bent pages, confusing thoughts and arguments as to what we are up to etc.) but the chapters of Kate's books end at the right moment. Read the Tiger Rising or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane out loud and you will see what I mean.

Catalina's edits mean that I have lost that fight - this time. I had to toss up between short chapters or keeping the flow. I chose the flow, combining chapters and even shifting whole sections around to keep the flow. Over the course of responding to the editors thoughts my chapters lengthened so that I lost that particular aim of short chapters but I would like to manage both length and flow in the next children's book I write.

So when writing for children do other writers think about the story being read out loud? I do. Each chapter I write I then read out loud. Listening to the words certainly helps me with flow and with catching my habit of repeating words. They get stuck in my brain and I keep using them... Pesky little creatures that they are. When reading back over my work I tend to skim across the repeats (and other poor choices) but when I read out loud the mistakes sort of stand up and wave saying 'look at me, look at me...'

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