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How long should a chapter be?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by The maddest hatter, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. The maddest hatter

    The maddest hatter New Member

    I'm writing my novel, but I don't know how many pages should sum up a chapter? Any suggestions?
  2. Kaellpae

    Kaellpae Inkling

    I've read a page long chapter and a hundred page long chapter. It just depends on the structure and content included.
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    There isn't a 'rule' as to how long a chapter should be, nor if every chapter should be about the same length.

    With YA novels, chapters sometimes tend to be shorter than with novels intended for an older audience, but you'll find plenty of exceptions.

    I've seen novels with 1 page chapters (less than 50 words) to 40+ page chapters (15,000+ words).

    Do what's right for your novel, where there's a logical break. Remember, chapters can also have secenes within them. In a manuscript you page break to a new page for a new chapter. In a manuscript you identify a scene break with a centered # (some publishers requst something else), but in a printed book sometimes there is a symbol like a dot or a star, or sometimes just a blank space between the lines of text.

    I look at chapters as a psychololgical barrier. If someone's reading your book, they might look ahead to see how long the next chapter is before they start reading it. If it's too long they might set it down for another time. if it's reasonable, they'll keep reading a bit longer. But that's me.
  4. BeigePalladin

    BeigePalladin Sage

    A 'chapter' is an event unfolding unto a critical moment, wich will either be the conclusion of the chapter or the start of the next. there's no real length requirements, I've seen a 14 word chapter, it's still efective :)

    really, what you should think, rather than word or page count, is 'is there to much happening in this one chapter and should I split it up'
  5. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    Chapter length is really a subjective thing, I agree with what the others have said. Chapters should be based on what is in them, not what they are made of. The shortest chapter I have seen is in William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

    "My Mother is a fish"<entire chapter
  6. Dante Sawyer

    Dante Sawyer Troubadour

    Change up chapter lengths.
    I have a few chapters that are 5000+ words, while others are less than 100. Don't always do the same length of chapters just like you shouldn't always have sentences of the same length. When it comes down to it, don't push a chapter to make it longer, but don't cut it short to fit a certain requirement. Say what needs to be said and the rest will work out.
  7. CicadaGrrl

    CicadaGrrl Troubadour

    A chapter has an arc, just like the whole book. These arcs will build on one another in order to create your structure. Think arc rather than pages.
  8. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    There are really no recommended, standard, or suggested parameters for chapters. I know, I've tried to look them up. Just pick your own rule and stick to it - internal consistency is all you can strive for. Maybe a length, maybe like Cicada says as a mini-story arc of its own, whatever. If it feels like it makes sense, go with it.
  9. Mreichardt

    Mreichardt Dreamer

    There's no real ideal chapter length in my opinion. As long as each chapter focuses on a key event or series of events and has a logical beginning and end, I don't think it matters. I've ended up with most of my chapters being at least 3000 words. My shortest chapter so far is 3,179 words and my longest is 6,817.
  10. Memmorio

    Memmorio Dreamer

    Enough to tell what you tell in that segment. Seriously, plenty of excellent books fluctuate between very long and very short chapters. Don't feel compelled to write more to a scene than feels natural. On the flipside, don't feel like you need to shorten a chapter that doesn't feel finished.
  11. Leuco

    Leuco Troubadour

    I think you should try to keep chapters short, but consider having some kind of conflict/resolution in each one-- a kind of beginning middle and end to make them more engaging.

    You don't have to shorten a scene and fault your natural flow, but you can extend it into the next chapter. For example, let's say the hero is creeping through the dark dungeon. Suddenly he springs a trap! This seems like an engaging place to end the chapter, but it lacks a potential resolution. I say, he finds a clever way out, but then when he does come out, he is greeted by a dark and mysterious figure. That's probably where the chapter should end. Not too long, but it has some kind of conflict/resolution and encourages the reader to continue.

    Gimmicky and hooky? Maybe, but readers are lazy nowadays. That's why everyone starts their novels at the climax, as if they're begging readers to make the effort to read their book all the way through.

    Anyway, this is just a thought. Good luck!
  12. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

    I prefer to read shorter chapters because it's more grasp, and more convenient. However, I agree with what others have said - it depends on the scene. You could also try analysing your characters to find out which ones are likely to be readers favourites, and if they dominate certain chapters - allow yourself to writer more.
  13. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I haven't read any previous comments, but! A chapter should be as long as it needs to be. No more, no less. The idea of a chapter length requirement strikes me as strange, because in all honesty, who the hell would be able to tell you what is and is not appropriate in your own book.
  14. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

    A chapter needn't be defined by a word count or devision of total word count for a story. Personally, I end/start a chapter on a new subject, ie; a battle, or a distance covered in their journey. This has resulted in some interesting chapter lenghts, some 4500, reaching up to 8300 words

    It's entirely up to you how long your chapters are.
  15. lawrence

    lawrence Troubadour

    I agree with many of the comments regarding 'no rules' chapter length, you can do whatever you want. Chapter breaks can be used in the same way as other format devices; use them to help tell the story (eg; position them as scene-changers) but, ultimately, when and where is governed by the natural flow of the story.
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I've read that you can also use chapter length as a tool for setting the pace of you book. However, pacing isn't something that I've put a lot of research into, so I don't really know the concept.

    I tend to end chapters:

    a) When I've reached a natural end point
    b) After two to six scenes
    c) When I can insert a great hook for the next chapter

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