Revising Leah

September 26, 2008

Playing with Chapter Subtitles

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:23 am
Tags: , , , ,

Way back in May, when I was still in the first cycle, I created a little chart that showed how I had reorganized the text into a larger set of chapters. In the 1996 draft, I was still locked in a mindset where I believed that the longer the chapter I wrote, the better. I squeezed the entire novel into just 12 chapters. Since then, I’ve learned that shorter, bite-size chapters are the way to go, at least in my genre.

But the problem with that chart was that I was getting ahead of myself. The first cycle was the wrong time to think that I’d be able to say definitively how many chapters the new edition of the novel will have. Since the first cycle, I’ve made a lot of changes to the chapters, including eliminating some completely and merging others together. I think I’m beyond the point where I need to make any more major organizational changes. So what you’ll find below is an updated chart comparing how the chapters were assembled in 1996 and how the chapters are assembled as of September 2008.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added a third column. The other day, I assigned some subtitles to a few chapters as a way of helping myself keep track of what was in each chapter. I got carried away with this and the next thing I knew I had created a subtitle for every chapter in the current draft. I never use chapter titles or subtitles when I draft novels — I’m content to simply use numbers — so these subtitles won’t appear in the new, published edition of the novel, but I kind of like the subtitles because they allow me to look at the entire plot and organization of the novel on just one screen. I’ve never been able to do that with Leah before. Don’t worry, the subtitles are vague enough that I’m not giving the story away, especially with the subtitles of the final two chapters. Think of these as a table of contents for the book — and for this blog. I’ve inserted links to some previous blog posts with extended excerpts or commentary from these chapters.

1996 Chapter Order

2008 Chapter Order

Subtitles” for the Chapters

1

1

Garage Sales

2

2

A Summer Day Spent at Home

3

3

The First Day of School, pt. 1

3

4

The First Day of School, pt. 2

3

5

Megan

4

6

A Rainy Day

4

7

Journey to the Used Book Store

5

8

David vs. Goliath

5

9

Crushed

6

10

A Tap On the Shoulder

6

11

Those Crappy Civilizations

6

12

To The Library!

7

13

Homecoming Weekend

7

14

Something Happened – But What?!

8

15

Leah Dumbfounds Her Parents

8

16

At David’s House

9

17

Hangin’ Out with the In-Crowd

9

18

The World of Ancient Egypt

10

19

Tears and Relief

10

20

A Holiday Visitor

10

21

Thanksgiving Day

11

22

Black Friday

12

23

I Have Something to Tell You

12

24

November 30th

One of these subtitles has actually changed the way I think of the story. It’s the subtitle for the new chapter eight, “David vs. Goliath”. It occurred to me, once I wrote that subtitle down, that an analogy between that chapter and the Biblical story is actually quite justified. It’s a connection that I didn’t notice until now. I pasted the relevant scene into this blog a couple weeks ago, so you can read it here. “Goliath” is obviously Kyle, who, Leah observes, is a really big guy. David Parks — the “David” in the analogy — isn’t a whole lot smaller, but he does stay seated in his desk during the entire scene while Kyle is standing up and looming over the entire class (and perhaps appearing to be even bigger than he is). And although David and Kyle don’t really fight (they seem to be friends), David, with some clever verbal sparring, manages to overcome Kyle’s brutish strength and “defeat” him pretty handily.

I don’t want to push this analogy too far, because it does break down eventually, but it’s interesting how the subtitle has opened up an interpretation of the chapter that hadn’t occurred to me. As a former “English major,” I find that fascinating.

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