Yes, I'm talking chapters today. I'm curious as to how important people consider them in terms of novels and the overall structure. If you're submitting a query to an agent, at least in the UK, the overwhelming majority of them ask for the first three chapters along with the synopsis and cover letter. It seems that a new writer won't be accepted if they don't follow this convention.
But why should this be? One of the most popular and successful authors ever produced by this country, Terry Pratchett, rarely writes in chapters. You can read for as long as you like without the narrative being interrupted by an arbitrary break. And for me anyway, I don't tend to read a chapter at a time. I read in short bursts as the opportunity arises, so I often break off mid-paragraph. I'm not really bothered about chapters.
That said, I can see the value of them. Many writers treat each chapter as a mini-novel, with conflict, goals for the characters and some kind of resolution or at least forward movement. Unlike the book as a whole (unless it's part of a series), they often end on a cliffhanger. I don't tend to work in such a regimented way. With my first novel, I wrote the first two chapters, then chapter three was basically the rest of the book (I divided it up afterwards). I felt I should for the benefit of agents, but I don't think it's essential. You could end each section on a cliffhanger, follow it with a row of asterisks, then start up again, and it keeps the action flowing pretty seamlessly. The end of a chapter invites you to stop, take a breath, consider what's just been read. You might not want the reader to pause for breath. I guess it depends how you want to pace things - either way is valid.
For my WIP, I have stuck with chapters so far (I'm on 7 - I think) but they might well get abandoned once the pace picks up. I only have a vague outline of the plot and would never plan each chapter in advance, but I appreciate that works for a lot of people and that's fine.
So what about you? Are you a chapter writer and/or planner, or do they tend to come in editing? Have you written a book without chapters? What do you prefer when it comes to reading?