Writing Chapter Titles

The first thing Sarah Miller did on her seventeenth birthday was to go to the bathroom and shove a toothbrush handle deep down her throat.

This is the first line in my novel, “A Postcard from Hades”, written for the last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’m at the final stages of the (somewhat) exhausting revision process.

There are 27 chapters, and the novel is about 90 000 words long. There were no chapter titles at first, but then I thought it would be a good idea to include them anyway.

So, here they are, the translated chapter titles! Most of them are related to certain sensory impressions, and not the plot relevant for the chapter. That’s why the image they paint together might not accurately describe the novel (same goes for the novel title, btw).

For example, “Vibrations” describe a New Year’s party with the loud music and bass lines vibrating the house. But it’s also the chapter in which my main male character loses his virginity. In “Rain”, characters meet after an argument, and it’s raining, which is quite rare for the climate of their small town. But there are also chapter titles related to the plot, or those that describe my characters (namely, “Alarm clock, bird and fountain pen”).

Ignore sloppy translation, grammar mistakes, etc. One of the worst things is knowing my English is not good enough to actually, well, write in English. But I digress.

Chapter titles

The novel has four parts, with little vignettes between them.

I
1. Waking Up
2. Introducing Aristotle
3. Encounters
4. Behind a Rusty Gate
5. Ethos, Logos, Pathos
6. On the Swings

D.S. Miller: Novel as an Argument

II
7. To Know Each Other
8. Life in Short
9. Little Pink Cap
10. Rain
11. Town Lives
12. In a Narrow Corridor

D.S. Miller interview (excerpt), Northern Journal of Literature and Art

III
13. Vibrations
14. Together, Alone
15. Fists and Blood
16. Preparation
17. The Other Worlds
18. After the Change
19. Sewing Room
20. Two Stories

D.S. Miller’s Writing Advice

IV
21. Punishment
22. Stained Seats
23. Alarm Clock, Bird and Fountain Pen
24. Accepting Reality
25. Life in Short
26. On a Hidden Bench
27. Departure

20 thoughts on “Writing Chapter Titles

  1. My Ever Changing Moods

    Ignore sloppy translation, grammar mistakes, etc. One of the worst things is knowing my English is not good enough to actually, well, write in English. But I digress.

    Your English is great! You’re so hard on yourself about it. Repeating what I said on Alee’s blog, there are English speakers whose grasp of English is WORSE than that of non-native speakers, so don’t be so hard on yourself about it. I think your English is fine.

    This book sounds like it’s going to be interesting. I like the chapter titles.

  2. Mira

    Thank you. To be honest, I am not sure how mu English seems to native speakers (but hearing it’s fine is always an encouragement). Still, I am insecure about it, especially when it comes to writing.

    Please understand I am not fishing for compliments. I am simply unable to write in English, which is bad, because I need to master it if I want to be published. It’s much better to be published in English; besides, you can’t publish anything here unless you pay.

    It took me hours to translate these chapter titles (but I liked the way they turned out; many sound better than in Serbian). But I am always obsessing about the small(?) things, like: do I put an article here? Is is “Preparation”? “A Preparation”? “The Preparation”? I almost didn’t publish this post because of it, but then I decided to grow some balls, so to speak.

    This book sounds like it’s going to be interesting. I like the chapter titles.

    Thanks!

    The novel turned out to be a coming of age story that explores some common cliches in this type of genre. (Teen sex and relationships, for example). There’s also a bit of postmodernism in a form of a writer (main character’s father) struggling to write a book.

    Some people say it might be considered YA (Young Adult), but I don’t think so: while my characters are teenagers, it’s not written from their POV; I don’t use teen slang and all. The style sounds more like an adult remembering/describing events surrounding teens.

  3. Serpentus

    The first sentence is interesting to say the least. Definetely will make readers read at least a few more sentences.

  4. Mira

    Well, that’s the point. To make people interested to read further.

    But it’s also vital for my novel, the fact that this girl forces herself to vomit whenever she’s under stress. And her parents don’t notice it.

  5. Alee

    I like the first sentence too. And the chapter titles are interesting an unique. It sounds like a great read, and I’m not just saying that.

  6. Mira

    Thanks! Hopefully, I will get it translated… somehow so you could read it. :)

    To be honest, this novel really helped me in a difficult time (graduating and facing the harsh reality that I can’t find a job even though I was one of the best students in my generation).

    Plus, I write again, after 13 years. And it feels so good. I am more an more ready to start outlining and writing that fantasy novel I’ve been planning for about 9 years.

  7. Serpentus

    “But it’s also the chapter in which my main male character loses his virginity.”

    lol. I hope you weren’t thinking of me when you wrote it. I don’t think I have that much influence over you.

  8. Mira

    Are you going to get it published?

    Uuuuugh. Not sure what to say. This is the first novel I’ve ever written that I’d like to see published, but it’s next to impossible to do in my country. And in order to publish it elsewhere, it has to be translated in English.

    I hope you weren’t thinking of me when you wrote it.

    Huh? No. It was written in November, during NaNoWriMo. In any case, you are not the only male virgin out there, no matter what society wants you to believe. (Plus, my character is a virgin only till the chapter 13)

  9. zek j evets

    Maybe I’m being nit-picky here but…

    The first thing Sarah Miller did on her seventeenth birthday, was to go to the bathroom and shove a toothbrush handle deep down her throat.

  10. zek j evets

    P.S. Feel free to send me a copy of your manuscript and I’ll do some edits for you! And in compensation I can send you a copy of my finished manuscript (for my 2nd book) and you can do some edits for me =)

  11. Mira Post author

    Maybe I’m being nit-picky here but…

    You’re not. Well, one must be nit-picky in these matters.

    Fixed, thanks.

    P.S. Feel free to send me a copy of your manuscript and I’ll do some edits for you!

    That’s very generous! But I still have to translate it. And I’m not particularly good at it (I’ve spent half and hour on that first line, and the novel is about 90 000 words!)

    And in compensation I can send you a copy of my finished manuscript (for my 2nd book) and you can do some edits for me =)

    Oh, I’d love to do it, compensation or not. But don’t expect English language edits and suggestions. Only the plot, etc. ones.

  12. Mira

    Zek,

    Sure! It might motivate me to actually do something about it…

    Serpentus,

    I’ve seen that one. But what I hate about these things is not the fact it puts “like” next to it, but the whole concept of sitting in your chair and “raising awareness” in one tab, while you chat with your friend in another or download pictures of your favourite celebrity.

  13. Serpentus

    “I’ve seen that one.”

    Cool. So you also read Cyanide and Happiness? I was at the bookstore the other day and picked up a copy of their work. I was in an lol epiphany. Their stuff is so funny …and sick.

  14. Mira

    Speaking of my novel, I’m re-reading it and I realize it’s unmarketable (at least in the US). Too much teen sex? Oh, well.

  15. Mira

    Well, technically, it IS fantasy setting. (Since it’s not our world, though this fact is unimportant for the plot). Does that count? :p

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