Novel Writing Questions No. 5: A Contents Page?

Okay, back in question 2, the comments suggested that naming the chapters is now out of style as this can give away the story but combining that with a table of contents can certainly spoil the story before the reader has got off the first page.

That’s why I normally skip a contents page when I first open a book. However, if it’s a long book, I end up going back to it to check how long I have to go without risking flicking through the pages and possibly coming across a spoiler. I’ve just finished It by Stephen King and I found myself doing that a lot to help me decide whether I should plough on to the end of the chapter or find a good place in the sub-chapters to leave it when I have to finish my reading time. In my favourite vampire series, Anno Dracula, Kim Newman also provides contents pages. It’s interesting to note that both authors also name their chapters but manage not to give too much away and even mislead on occasion.

It looks like contents pages are more suitable for larger books, though I’ve seen them in smaller books as well.

What do you think? Is it worth putting in a contents page, even if your book isn’t too big?

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