Bewildering Stories discusses
Chapters or Parts?
by Don Webb
A veteran contributor asks a cogent question about formatting serialized works, particularly as it affects a novella he’s writing.
First, let’s review some definitions derived from real-life experience:
- Bewildering Stories does not use the term “novelette”; it is not a literary genre.
- A novel is a serial that takes more than one yearly quarter to complete.
- A novella is a serial that is complete within one quarter or within 12 regular issues.
- A serial is complete within two or three regular issues in the same quarter. Unlike a novel or novella, it does not need a synopsis because it is normally complete on line as of the first installment.
A note about BwS’ standard practice: Titles are italicized if the work contains chapters or episodes with titles of their own. Otherwise, titles are in normal font style and enclosed in quotation marks when cited outside of index pages, as here.
And now our contributor’s question:
Shall I break the scenes into titled chapters, as in a novel, or simply numbered parts?
A lot depends on length and internal structure. Three examples:
Bill Kowaleski’s novel Living Standards is long by Bewildering Stories’ measurement. It is divided into chapters, and each chapter necessarily has a title. That’s standard procedure for a novel.
Bill Prindle’s novella “Somewhere Beyond the Sea” came to us as a continuous text. I’ve divided it into ten parts mainly on the basis of settings and page lengths. The parts are episodes rather than chapters; that’s why they have only numbers rather than subtitles of their own.
The synopsis is standard in novels and novellas and is included in the first installment of every issue. It gives new readers an incentive to use the Table of Contents, start at the beginning, and read continuously. That arrangement — as well as our weekly issues — enables BwS to publish works that would be too lengthy for most other webzines.
On the other hand, Cyrano de Bergerac’s The Other World is also a continuous text with no chapters. I divided it into episodes and gave each episode a title. I’m rather proud of that presentation, and I imagine Cyrano would like it, too; it’s very practical for the readers, and the episode titles will arouse prospective readers’ curiosity.
In formatting a novella, I advise caution:
How long is each part? And how self-contained is it?
Bill Kowaleski’s chapters vary in length from short to long while Cyrano’s episodes are short. However, both Bill’s chapters and Cyrano’s episodes are all self-contained, hence their titles. On the other hand, Bill Prindle’s episodes are about average in length and are better with numbers only; the narrative continuity is less visibly interrupted.
Copyright © 2017 by Don Webb
for Bewildering Stories