Compiling Long Henry-Fieldingesque Chapter Titles

My agent thinks my novel should have more navigational chapter titles than a simple One, Two, Three, and suggests something rather lengthy a la Tom Jones or, the example he uses, from Henry Hitchings newish The World in Thirty-Eight Chapters or Dr Johnson’s Guide to Life, which employs the same device, e.g., “Of tea and Abyssinia – a chapter about Choices, in which we have chosen to include the word ‘lumbersome’ (a curio you may reasonably think a mistake for ‘cumbersone’)”.

Sounds fun, sounds interesting, sounds, to my aged brain, a nightmare to compile. Does anyone have experience in this? Thoughts in how to execute it?

That sounds like a job for a custom metadata field.

You would use whatever name in the binder that makes sense to you, and then fill in these fancy-long titles in a custom metadata field such as “H-F title”. Then you would create/modify a Section layout in your compile settings for your chapters so that in addition to, or instead of, the title, you add a <$custom:H-F title> placeholder in the title suffix or prefix. Apply formatting to that placeholder in the layouts, plus any “OPT-enter” newline characters to separate the H-F titles from your chapter title as needed.

Instead of custom metadata, you could just use the synopsis field if you like; this style of title actually works pretty well as a synopsis anyway. I believe the placeholder tag for that is <$synopsis>.

Note that I don’t have a handy list of placeholder tags in front of me, so I may have got them wrong. Check the Help menu to confirm what they are.

Edit: Alternately, if you use chapter folders with scene documents in them, then you could add these expansive titles into the text area of the chapter folders. That way, they’d show up in a Scrivenings session and in a corkboard view of all your chapters (if your synopses are blank). Customizing the section layout in the compile for your chapter folders would just involve checking the “Text” checkbox for chapter folders, and then styling that text as needed.

I’ve used this method with success in the past. It has the advantage of being able to style the extensive subtitle as written, which is precluded in synopses and metadata.

I think your agent needs more decaf. I’ve yet to hear of an editor rejecting a manuscript because the chapter titles were too boring, but putting that much work into darlings the editor might well hate seems to be premature.

Thanks, Robert and Sliver. I write using Chapters containing Scene Documents, but when I’m happy with the contents and the chronology I merge the scenes into chapters only, which I find less cumbersome during the self-editing process.

Now that the synopses have served their purpose, I might try rewriting them into chapter titles and see how it looks (bearing in mind that, whatever I do, the agent will have a staffer reformat the manuscript to align with their house “look”). I also might try just expanding the current two- or three-word chapter titles to whatever I need–certainly less than a dozen words.

The beauty of Compile is, we can try things out to see how they go, and invest nothing but a little time.

Hmmmm. Well, I’ve had the same agent for 15 years, and he’s never once steered me wrong. He’s not looking to please a particular editor; he’s thinking how readers will see the TOC they’ll be scanning in the bookstore, and how they’ll be reading a fairly complex work spread across seventy years. It’s a technique that certainly works with historical fiction. Check out Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. With a more minimalists, modern book, it wouldn’t work at all. But that’s not what I wrote.

No actual help from me… SURPRISE!

But I do like to argue. And since Devin and I have recently … discussed my poutiness … I will take exception to his dislike of long chapter titles prior to submission. I’ve read more than one terrible prepublish book because I found the chapter titles intriguing. “If this dingle bat writes as well as the chapter title suggests, this will be a great read!” For each bad book with intriguing chap titles I’ve read many good ones. To me the titles build an anticipation about the content.

Not being an editor/publisher/person-whose-opinion-is-of-ANY-value aside, I say do it.

Hi Devin! You’re position is valid IMO with the criteria you gave (presubmission/submission waiting editor). I’m just being… me.

No worries, Jaysen, not gonna take it personally. I think we’re both just trying to help a fellow writer with the best advice we can give and multiple viewpoints are stronger than one.

Ahab, your agent may well be right. I’m simply remembering advice from multiple agents and authors and editors (as a layperson, not as a published fiction author) to minimize the flourishes and embellishments you put into the manuscript prior acceptance. At least you have an agent! :slight_smile: