Ask Dave: In Travel Humor Books, Should Chapters Fall in a Certain Order?

“I am loving reading my autographed copy of Getting Lost. My question to you is, when writing a book of random humorous travel essays, do they need to fall into any particular order? Unlike Getting Lost, mine aren’t in any chronological time frames.”

–Jules in Atlanta, Georgia

Dave autographed Jules's copy of "Getting Lost" at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. You can also order autographed copies through this website! (Photo: Angela Peralta)

Thanks for your question, Jules!

If your tales are truly random, identifying a specific order they should fall in isn’t always practical. What’s important is that the book flows in a way the audience can follow.

In Getting Lost, that meant a chronological order. You can also organize things geographically, keeping stories from the same region together, or topically, grouping stories of similar themes.

My short e-book, Kinky Chipmunks and Horny Goblins, has nothing to do with travel, It’s is a collection of stand-alone humor essays. The order in which the chapters fall is somewhat random, though I did find it made sense to group certain ones together. There are a couple of tales about my car, for example, which appear back-to-back. I paired a story about the Atkins Diet with a story about coffee. Both have scenes in the same supermarket. And the book contains a couple of Christmas adventures. So I sequenced things as logically as possible, but ultimately, the chapters could have fallen in different orders too.

Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad - Travel Humor by Dave FoxFrom a marketing point of view, you want to have a strong beginning and ending, so consider putting your favorite stories first, to lure readers, or last, to keep them laughing at the end and wanting more. Keep in mind if publishing on Kindle, Amazon lets readers download free samples of most books – often the first chapter or first ten percent – which makes a strong beginning important because people will decide whether to buy the rest of the book based on that beginning.

Once you have all of your chapters written, it’s likely you’ll see some natural organization taking shape. But where chapters don’t have an obvious fit, just insert them where they flow as naturally as possible with the rest of the book. Part of the joy of reading a collection of stand-alone humor essays is you never know what to expect next, so sometimes,  a little bit of randomness is a good thing.

Good luck, Jules! And let us know when your book is published!


Check out Jules’s Blog, Jules Rules, or follow her on Twitter at @3pupsinapopup.

Do you have a question about writing, travel, or absolutely anything else? Send it in via our Ask Dave page, and watch for the answer in a future column!

Published on Sunday, June 3, 2012

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