I’m actively revising my next novel to be submitted soon, and in doing so, I’ve had a lot of trouble with the chapter lengths. On my first formal revision, I felt like my chapters were way too short — sometimes only 5 pages, double spaced!! — so I rectified this by combining. A lot. And then I felt like they were too long. And then I said “F it” and sent it to my beta readers, assuming that hitting the ‘send’ button also meant that they were all perfectly sized and no one would care.
Then the feedback started rolling in. One of my beta readers’ first comments — as in, the first line of the email, the blinking red thought, the most important thing that was bursting out of her chest like an alien baby — was on the “overwhelming length” of my chapters.
I guess red wine and chapter chopping (or rather, expanding) don’t go so well together, after all.
However, something I did chop prior to my final revisions was the prologue. And I don’t think any beta reader would disagree with that decision. Prologues have always felt strange to me. I think they’re either extremely necessary or extremely not. And my prologue felt, well…extremely unnecessary.
See all those reasons to nix the prologue? In case technology fails you, I’ll reproduce them here…when to nix the prologue if you’re using it to do one of the following:
- Set the mood/atmosphere because you failed to do so in the opening chapter
- Info dump because you can’t figure out where to sprinkle in the backstory
- Create tension because your chapter one is slow and you can’t bear to edit it again
- Not trusting that your reader is smart enough to understand the world you created
- Your story or fantasy world is overly complicated and you want to get the reader a school lesson on it first
The first three reasons hit a little too close to home. And that third line — you can’t bear to edit it again — tends to be the reason behind a wide variety of issues with my manuscripts.
Thank you, Roni Loren, for justifying my prologue chop, and reminding me that it will probably never be okay to use a prologue in any of my novels ever again.