1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Chapter length

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by druidofwinter, May 24, 2013.

  1. druidofwinter

    druidofwinter Sage

    281
    38
    28
    OK, so in my WIP the chapters tend to be fairly long, around 7K words. But at the moment the chapter i am working on is approaching 10K. Is this getting to long? Or are long chapters fine? It is mostly a lot of action with a breathing space thrown in here and there. I have not ended the chapter because i do not want to switch POV and do not plan on doing so soon, so it is likely to go on for another 5-6K. When you guys read a book how long do you like the chapters to be?
    Thanks for the answers. :)
     
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    1,206
    299
    83
    There is no rule and reader preferences vary. With that said, 16,000 words is very long for a chapter.

    One does not need to switch POVs when a new chapter starts. If there is a breather/break in the action, as indicated, there is no reason it could not be a new chapter.

    Consider from a reader's POV. They're reading and think, I'll read just one more chapter before ______________, which could be going to bed, going to work, doing homework, mowing the grass, etc. Or they know a 45 page chapter is waiting, as they've scanned ahead, and have limited time to do something, such as read...and they're the type of reader who does not like to stop in the middle of a chapter. While they might still finish the book sometime, the reading of it will be extended, and the overall positive experience may be diminished.

    Or maybe not. Again, it all depends.
     
    Watcher and druidofwinter like this.
  3. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

    464
    100
    43
    Honestly, the only time lengthy chapters bother me are when they are a POV I am not enjoying, and I want to get back to the characters I like.
     
    druidofwinter likes this.
  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    405
    83
    One study found that readers average from 7500-15,000 words read in a sitting, and I think that's about right. It's worth keeping that in mind about chapters, since like TWErvin2 said, just calling something a chapter's a good invitation to the reader to hang on to the end and then either stop at the end or start another. And it's not just the label, a good chapter is a unit of drama that's worth reading at one stretch, if possible.

    Of course people can and do stop at just the end of a scene, or its middle, if they want to. But it's good to plan chapters so it's easier to take in one (or more) at once. Your 7K chapters sound like longish but good uses of that... but if a chapter goes on toward 15K or more, is that really all one long chapter-type arc? So much so that saying "Chapter Next" between parts of it would really hurt it? --And remember, if readers get used to your 7Ks, taking one to 15K looks odder.

    You say you hate to break the chapter because you're not shifting VP yet. I think you'd do better to break it anyway; making each chapter only have one VP is nice and neat, but making that VP also stretch the chapter out might be more than you need. (Yes, Game of Thrones always shifts both together, but Martin's more determined to juggle things. And his chapters average just 4,000 words.)

    Just my opinion here.
     
    druidofwinter likes this.
  5. The Unseemly

    The Unseemly Troubadour

    198
    38
    28
    My suggestion is simple - make it as long or as short as you need it to be. Don't give yourself word/other limits for chapters, because limits can tend to lead to bad writing. People tend to focus more on trivial limits rather than on the story in itself. I'm not saying that this is, of course, a bad thing, just something more to watch out for: don't strain yourself on making something between such and such a limit, if you need to go over or under to make the story effective. The writing is the most important.

    If anything, something I have found to work, is to merge chapters if they seem to short for my internal, "gutteral," liking, or split them apart if they seem to long. If you're clever about it, splinting the chapters or merging them shouldn't make too much of a difference.
     
    druidofwinter and Watcher like this.
  6. Nameback

    Nameback Troubadour

    140
    67
    28
    I think it's perfectly OK to have very long chapters. I think traditionally most books, whether literary or fantasy, tend to have chapters that are less than 7k words, but I don't see inherently why this would be significantly more strenuous for the reader.

    The only pitfall is if a long chapter is also boring or from the POV of a character people don't like. If you're spending 15k words on a chapter because it's bursting at the seams with dramatic events and moving characterization, then I see absolutely no reason to worry.
     
    druidofwinter and Watcher like this.
  7. kayd_mon

    kayd_mon Sage

    262
    28
    28
    I haven't heard many people complain about short chapters. I have heard them complain about long chapters.

    For me, I don't prefer them overlong. Sometimes it's fine, especially if it's really good reading, but as others have said, you run the risk of over staying your welcome with a POV the reader may not be into.
     
    druidofwinter likes this.
  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    1,973
    1,135
    163
    You say you have breaks in the action. Are these scene breaks? Why are they not chapter breaks? What is making this a whole, cohesive chapter? I wouldn't worry so much about "OMG my chapter is too long!" I would ask myself, "Does it need to be this long? Yes? Then tally ho!" IF the chapter is cohesive as it stands and IF your breaks in action would not make natural chapter breaks upon review, then don't worry about it. Keep writing, and save fussing about chapter lengths for the rewrite.
     
    druidofwinter likes this.
  9. druidofwinter

    druidofwinter Sage

    281
    38
    28
    Thanks for all the help guys! I always know if i post on here i'll get lots of good answers. Just in answer to you aelowan, the action breaks are not scene breaks, just places where the character(s) stand back and take a breath. I guess i could split into a chapter in one of these places... Oh well we'll see. Thanks again for all the answers \V/
     
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    405
    83
    One thing to consider: chapters aren't the same as scenes or viewpoints, and they're a bit more removed from what your style actually is.

    One author might cover a battle as three 2,000-word skirmishes on different sides of the field and then settle into their aftermath; another might pull off one straight 15,000-word scene of how much just keeps happening. That's a plot and a style choice.

    Compared to that, chapter splits are more a way to package the scenes. The combination of the two makes its own kind of statement, and there are a lot of angles to choose from (split a chapter just for a cliffhanger, with the followup on the next page? end the scene and chapter at 2K just to show off "yes the villain beat them that fast"?), but chapters are also about finding a common language with the readers and their own expectations. (Including your own patterns; if every chapter so far has been 4K, a 2K looks unique and a 10K even more so.) It's a good place to lean toward making your reader comfortable.
     
  11. JSDR

    JSDR Scribe

    28
    14
    3
    If I'm reading the OP correctly, it's already at 10k, plus another 5-6k planned?

    I'll speak from my experiences beta-reading (IDK why the writers I beta for favor long chapters o_O) and as a reader (not looking at this from the writer's POV). Also gonna take into account the info that it's mostly action with some "breathing space thrown in."

    I *do* feel bogged down when a chapter drags on longer than what *feels* comfortable to me. Sometimes most of a story's chapters are about...5k long on average. The story establishes a rhythm, like breathing. Sometimes, a story doesn't do that and chapter lengths are all over the place.

    Reading the stories, though, I do feel a compulsion to "get to the end" of a chapter. The white space right after the end of a chapter feels like taking a deep breath. I can ruminate on the scenes or chapter I just read, think about how they fit it into the story as a whole, anticipate what's coming next. This could take as long as an entire day, or as short as 2 seconds.

    Point is, I need that white space.

    If the chapter I just read had a lot of action going on, I definitely need that white space. I may have missed something. I might want to go back and reread some actiony scenes to see if there was anything allegorical in them. For me, reading action scenes is like swimming laps in a pool and trying to see how long I can go without coming up for air.

    The chapter break lets me come up for air. I *do* get tired of long chapters, no matter how well written or compelling the story. There's a limit to how much information I can absorb and often, I slip into the roll of submissive to a dominant (great) book. Chapter breaks are permission to literally take a break.

    I don't think you need to change POV every time you have a chapter break. That's the last thing I care about as a reader, as long as it's clear in a sentence that it's still the same dude/dudette's POV from the last chapter.
    I *do* think you could try a chapter break each time it feels you've gotten your point across with a particular scene and set up the following conflicts.

    HTH,
    J
     
    druidofwinter and wordwalker like this.
  12. Addison

    Addison Auror

    1,794
    344
    83
    From my experience, in both reading and writing, there's no set rule for chapter length. There was one book (I forget the name) which was hundreds of pages long but it was only six chapters. Others can be only two hundred or so pages long, like a novella, but thirty chapters long. It really depends on you. When do you feel the chapter should end? What point feels the best?
     
  13. Sandor

    Sandor Dreamer

    23
    1
    3
    Hi folks! :)

    I'm writing my first novel (first draft...and actually the first one that I'm going to complete :) ) and after some tweaking and discovery, i found out that 4000-4500 words is my average size. Maybe it's not enough compared to the average length of the average-fantasy chapters...but, who cares? :)
    I've also some 3000 words-chapters and they seems ok too.

    Cheers. :)
     
  14. Justin Cary

    Justin Cary Dreamer

    18
    6
    3
    I like to read chapters that are shorter. If you are writing 10K chapters you may find that a reader will look for how much they have to commit to reading before starting in. If the chapter is too long they could decide to put the book down and if they put it down they may not pick it back up.

    When I was a kid and had lots of time to read a long chapter was no big deal, but now that I have many time obligations I do consider things like chapter length when I pick up a book. If you can find chapter breaks that make sense I would recommend chopping those chapters to bits :)
     
Loading...

Share This Page