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What do you think about wildly varying chapter lengths?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Alexander Mullins, Sep 14, 2020.

  1. Alexander Mullins

    Alexander Mullins Acolyte

    I have pretty short chapters already, but this one I’m working on is the shortest yet. It’s an emotional inciting incident and I feel like it should just stand on its own as a whole chapter, but it’s only 1-2 scenes at barely over 1000 words.
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Doesn’t bother me in the least, personally.
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    If it works, it works.

    My shortest chapter is seven words, and the longest one is over 5k words. Mostly, they range between 1k and 3k words, though.
    Alexander Mullins likes this.
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I don't think it's a big issue. I do find it annoying when there's a chapter that's extra long, but I wouldn't give up a book over it. If the chapters are frequently all over the place in length I suppose it might be a red flag that you have a pacing issue. But like the others have said, if it's what the chapter needs then that's what comes first.
  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Story of my life. :D As long as the chapter is doing it's job length doesn't matter too much.
    Alexander Mullins likes this.
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I have chapters that range from under 300 words to well over 10,000 - one in the current WIP hit 11,000. Most of mine, though are in the 2000-3000 word range...at least until the current WIP, where the shortest chapter is 3800 words.
  7. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    If it does the job it doesn't bother me too much, but I don't like overly long chapters as I don't often have hours to sit and finish one chapter. I need a break and when they go on too long it just knackers my poor brain. That's why chapters exists really, for the reader.
  8. No problem. ( I personally love short chapters and sometimes tend to start skimming when I realize I am in the midst of a 20- 25 page chapter.) I've seen chapters shorter than 1000 word chapters and, as long as they do what they are meant to do and move things forward, that's fine.
  9. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    You know the pacing of your book best. Don't hold yourself to an arbitrary standard if you find it is a disservice to your work- if lengthening the chapter undermines the emotional impact you are trying to craft, don't do it.

    Honestly, I pay almost zero attention to 'chapter lengths' once (or if) I am totally enveloped and engrossed in a book...
  10. The first time I saw a jarringly short chapter (no chapter before or after that in that novel was as short as it was, a mere few paragraphs), I loved the effect it created. I imagine it wouldn't work as well if it was very common, and I wouldn't imagine you could do it more than twice in a novel.
    On a superficially related note, first chapters that are short are common in technical nonfiction books. They're usually just introductions.
  11. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Same as above, no biggie.
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Length in itself is not a measure of quality. The question isn't "is this chapter too short?"

    The question, always and ever, is "does this chapter work?"
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    If you just get consistent chapter lengths at 7, you could seta record for book with most chapters. ;)

    Why, if I managed that Whispers of Ghosts would’ve been over 35k chapters! That would be a fun answer for “How long is your book?”

    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
    Svrtnsse likes this.

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