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Average Chapter Word Count

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xaysai, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

    I'm currently outlining my novel and would like to hear what you think is a reasonable chapter word count.

    I know it will vary from author to author and from chapter to chapter depending on what's required, but I am looking at each chapter to be ~2,500-3,000 words.

    Is this too long, too short, or just about right?
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    In my view there isn't a 'right' number of words per chapter.

    Some authors chapters, by design or writing style, tend to be about the same length. Others vary widely.

    A chapter should be as long as it needs to be. If a chapter seems too long, possibly a new chapter where a scene break would be might work. It's a bit about style, combining structure and storytelling that will ultimately dictate chapter length.

    With that being said, as a reader, I prefer chapters that are between 2000 and 7000 words. A good place to stop. I'm not one of those folks who will stay up just a bit longer to read another chapter. And if the length of the chapter is too long, I'll put it off until I have time.

    Take a look at some of the novels you've enjoyed by various authors. If the chapter length seemed right to you, and felt comfortable as a reader, you can shoot for that as your goal.
  3. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    It's all a matter of what effect you want chapters (and scenes) to have with their length. George Martin uses sizable chapters so you can get into a character before you're yanked across the continent for the next one; I've seen light fare use short chapters so it's easy to stop and restart when your snack's ready, and gripping suspense use short ones so you can't use them to guess how many chapters are strung together to finish a scene.

    One figure to factor in: research has found readers average 7000-15,000 words in a sitting.
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I agree with TWE with everything except staying up late for another chapter. If I'm really digging the story I will. Lol.

    Otherwise, he's right on saying that a chapter should be as long as it needs. I know some writers feel differently and that it's preferred if chapters are close in length as it adds some sense of uniformity. That seems like hogwash to me. As a reader, I could care less as long as the story is good. As a writer, my chapters range between 2500 to 8k and that doesn't bother me one iota.
  5. saellys

    saellys Inkling

    The Camlann writing team has been giving this some serious consideration, since we'll be self-publishing the novel as a web serial and the limits of what people will sit through in one installment become that much more important. We think 10,000 words per weekly chapter (possibly broken up into thirds and released on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) is reasonable. One of my co-writers tends to cover a lot of ground, plot-wise, in about half that amount, while the other just finished a battle scene that weighs in at 8,500 and will probably get a chapter to itself. I usually write shorter scenes, and one recent conversation-heavy piece came to 3,000.

    Generally, if the story is gripping enough, I don't pay attention to chapter length in the things I read. Short chapters are great if you have a lot of potential breaking points where suspense can be built. Long chapters are great for getting a lot done. The only time I've ever gotten fatigued and wondered when a chapter would just end already was while reading a certain multi-POV series I could name where I hated that chapter's focal character so much.
  6. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

    This answered much of my question. Since I want my novel to be fast paced, shorter chapters might be better.

    Also, since I am aiming for 100k words (~300 pages), I can get an idea of how many chapters I should aim for @ ~3k words.

    Obviously everything is subject to change, but I need to start my outlining somewhere : )
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I aim for 2-4k. Any longer I consider splitting it in two.
  8. gethinmorgan

    gethinmorgan Scribe

    Agreed, though YA fiction sometimes has 2,000 words, for a nice brisk pace.

    Being a discovery writer, (I am unable to stick to any plan I make) I find that the definition of chapters comes after the first draft, once I know the theme. Until then, all I have is a list of scenes, each with the potential to be the begining, middle or end of a chapter. Anyone else do it this way?
  9. Rullenzar

    Rullenzar Troubadour

    There is no average number. It all depends on how long it takes for you to tell that certain scene. There is nothing else people can say other then that but, they will try. Every point in some way or another will be linked to your scene. Short and sweet :)
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I've read that some authors try to have longer chapters at the beginning of the book and use a shorter length to speed pacing to the climax. Just a thought.
  11. I usually end up at roughly 10.000 words per chapter. My early chapters are usually shorter, though.

    That said, I don't think you need a set limit to how many words constitutes a chapter. A chapter is finished once it's finished - that is to say when it has established that particular part of the plot.
  12. Addison

    Addison Auror

    There's no set length for chapters. They're as long or short as you want. All I know is that when an agent or publisher or who ever you get reads it and sees it could be in stores they'll read it and if the whole piece is too long then they'll tell you.

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