- Books, Literature, and Writing
Just Write: Enough with the Questions
Most writers know that there is no ultimate recipe for writing a good novel. And how could there be? There's no ultimate recipe for the perfect cake either. Why? Because firstly it depends on what people like, what size they deem is a perfect size and how much sweetness or bitterness they can handle. Whether we're talking about novels or cakes it all depends on what people like. Some like romance and some prefer horror, some prefer novellas while others have no problem reading a 700+ pages novel. No matter what you can't please everyone. And nor should you try to. Sure there are a few things that must be included for a novel to work but it can be done in various ways and it depends on what works for the particular novel that one is trying to write.
I see a lot of young writers asking how long they should make their chapters, whether they should give them titles or just stick to numbers and if they should start with a prologue or chapter one and a million of other similar questions. They are asking as if there is a right and a wrong answer, which there is not. And the answer is something that they must and should try to figure out themselves.
It's Your Novel, You Decide
There may be various reasons for asking those questions but here's the thing. How you write your novel should not be up for others to decide. You must write it the way you want to as long as you follow the basic rules of writing and story-telling, which are using good grammar and correct spelling, creating believable characters and a good plot. How you accomplish all that is up to you. If you can't decide then don't decide right away, just try something and if you change your mind you can always go back and change it. But don't write your novel a certain way just because someone else told you to.
So What's Better? Starting with a Prologue or a Chapter One?
It is generally recommended that you start your story as close to the ending as possible, which means to skip any unimportant, unnecessary introduction. But it is also recommended that you give your characters a proper introduction in order to establish a connection between the characters and the reader. You have to make the reader care. But can you do both? Of course you can. You have to find the right way to start that fits your story. Ask yourself, Is a prologue really necessary? What do you hope to achieve with the prologue you have in mind? Do you need a mysterious beginning that has nothing to do with the next chapter and will not make sense until the story is nearing its end? You decide.
What About Chapter Length
Personally I'd recommend below fifty pages at least because one has to be able to read it in one sitting. But a novel's worth is not measured by the length of its chapters. The chapters don't even have to be similar in length. Some can be five pages and others can be twenty. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. As long as you break them up in the right place it should be fine however long or short they are.
Chapters: Names or Numbers?
Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this question either. However you have to do one or the other, you can't switch between these options. If you give the first chapter a name the next one cannot merely be called "chapter two". So I suggest just using numbers if you can't come up with titles for all of them. And if you do decide on naming them be sure not to give too much away in your titles. Which one of these fit your novel? When you've found the answer to that you've figured out what to do.
Word Count and Number of Pages?
If you end up having more pages than the bible contains then you might have a problem. If you really do end up having a novel that long you have two options.
1. You break it up into several novels and make it a series instead.
2. You edit and cut away like crazy until you have a more manageable page count.
Either way you can have a really good novel, which is only a 100 pages and a really good one, which is 800 pages long. However if you are a debutant consider not submitting a manuscript too large.
Should I Include an Epilogue?
Do you need one? Do you think it is important to the story? Do you think the reader will want to know this information about your character's future that you are planning on disclosing in your epilogue? It depends on what kind of ending you want. It's up to you.
The Point of All This?
Novels are different. Not all novels are written the same way. You find out what works best for your novel and that's how you are going to set it up. Just because someone else did it differently it does not mean your way of doing it is wrong. There is no way that is more right. So stop asking what and how it is best and just WRITE!