1. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    A Question of Pages

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mr. Galaxy, Dec 17, 2015.

    I’m a silly person with silly questions, but please bear with me for a moment.

    What determines your number of pages per chapter? When should you start a new chapter? Is there a specific number of pages a chapter should be? You see I’m a crazy person who just at down one day and started writing, without any previous conception of what on Earth a book, short story or to be honest even what a well constructed paragraph looks like. But here we are… talking about hypothetical pages in a hypothetical story. Somewhere along the line I made coffee.



    I told you they were silly questions, but I’d love your two cents. With enough of them I can buy a soda.
     
  2. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    My advice is probably going to sound odd, but it really depends on how you are writing the book. If it is scene by scene, stick to doing that and maybe they will be your chapters in the end. If not, you can assemble them later as you need.

    If you just let the words spill out, like I do, then beware of just writing it in a single document or going by a rough "theme". This has proved to be very problematic for me since my first "chapter" was over 70k words and further ones broke 100k... the connections and presence of mind to have very defined scenes is something I only really got into later. Looking back, I wish I did not write like 380,000 words before realizing the importance of giving structure to scenes/chapters/parts.
     
  3. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I want to add to this single-document thing. Processors are sometimes slow with very extended documents and I don't mean just MS Word. I started with a single txt-file (without any kind of formatting), but at about 30,000 words scrolling got slow. So I divided into chapter-long files and now everything is just peachy.

    Regarding the lengths, there are some threads out here which expand on that, I will only go into what stuck in mine when reading all that (and it surely is not conclusive!): It depends on the Genre. For fantasy stick to 80,000-100,000 words for a novel.
    Chapter lengths can be pretty much anything but a chapter should advance the plot and give a greater height to fall in the succeeding chapters too. As @Inks said, beware of having a structure, and stick to it.

    Good luck! :)
     
  4. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    So, no real guidelines on chapters? Just have them and don’t run away with it. Because at the moment I’m averaging 3-4 pages a chapter.

    Good tip on splitting up long projects between multiple docs. I wouldn’t have thought of that but it makes production sense.
     
  5. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Those would be scenes instead of chapters. Though I think a few popular books had very short chapters, it ended up having a lot of white-space filler. Though it depends on audience to an extent, but I would try for about 3k words per chapter. I think 15 minutes of reading time per chapter is feasible and manageable, but there are no hard rules on anything.
     
  6. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    I look at Chapters as bookmarks for the brain. I always hated being six pages into a chapter and wondering when the next chapter was so I could stop and put in the bookmark. Like thought periods, they are where your brain stops to reflect on what just happened.
     
  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter length is VERY much up to you...but your reading seems rather like mine, where you sometimes need to go and do something (sleep, collect the kids, make dinner...) and you need somewhere sensible to stop so you can carry on later. It's useful to have, if not chapters, a one-line break; this sounds like what your sections are...sections, rather than chapters. But you may find that these sections expand when you edit, and realise that your descriptions/dialogue/etc. are woefully short because you left out loads of stuff that YOU know about your universe, and what's in the MC's head, but which you haven't shared with the reader.

    But I've read books where chapter length was VERY variable, right down to less than one page/say 300 words.

    In summary, a chapter should, I think, be around 3k words x 30 chapters = 90k book. But you can split that chapter up into 3 or 4 one-line breaks.
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Now I am confused.

    I always thought that chapters would mark the highlights and give the reader a structure. At the end of each chapter would come a conflict, or a closure of some kind where the reader could take a breath before stumbling on into the next unknown. Ideally each chapter end would heighten the main conflict.

    To provide some structure within each chapter the reader would have scenes, each individually advancing the plot within the conflict of this chapter. Also to give the reader a chance to get out without leaving too much hanging (if tired or out of time).

    My own chapters run to something between 6-9,000 wc, with mostly 4-5 scenes. But that is just me. I need about 2,000 words per scene (which amounts to 1-2 evenings) to set the pacing and resolve the individual plot within.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The number of pages depend on the size of paper they're printed on, the font choice and size, spacing, etc. I would forget about page count altogether. Pages are a layout/formatting issue, not a writing issue.

    If you must count anything at your first-draft stage, the relevant count to pay attention to is 'word' count. That will remain the same, no matter how the story is eventually presented. And if you're going for publication, that's the number the agents will want to see.

    I feel it's best, though, to just do what you need to do to tell your story the best way possible. I'd forget counting anything, at least until you've completed your first draft. If you put artificial constraints on your writing like this, it will hold you back.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
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  10. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    The average chapter is 4500 words which should equal 18 pages if you have 250 per page. page length varies, especial if you are looking at middle grade vs. young adult vs. adult novel.

    I work for 4500 words per chapter myself and I usually end my chapters with the end of a scene, or at a very pivotal moment in the scene/ a cliff hanger.

    Its fine if you just sit down and write, if anything it will help improve your skills but eventually i think it will benefit you and structure your writing more to insert chapter headings.
     
  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    When reading a book I expect the chapters to pretty much be what Lifeline has described, almost like a tiny story in each one. Not being very good at writing my thoughts have little bearing, but I am more of a outliner than a pantser, so the outline structure gives me a guideline for chapters in my case. It would be interesting to know what Bayview has to say on this since she is a pantser and has proven success, so probably knows what she is doing without question.
     
  12. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    I think if you are writing an adult novel 6-9k pages for 1 chapter is about right. I would imagine that for an adult novel the word count is closer too 300 words per page therefore you should have about 25-30 pages for each of your chapters. That seems right to me. Though i would stay closer to the 6000 words are people like to end chapters. 30 page chapters are okay but I prefer to not have more than a few in each book
     
  13. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Oh good, for a moment I was, not doubting myself, but my theory. I would have gone on anyway, just because I like famous last words or sentences (as the case at each chapter/scene end may be ;) ), but it sure is a relief to know that I am doing nothing seriously out of the box. Thanks, @tonguetied and @AASmith !
     
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  14. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Because my MC's menstrual cycle and phase of the moon are important I write one week at a time, with a cut off every seven days. That way I can easily track solar/lunar/menstrual events. Once the story is out I go back and reorganize the chapters by events, so some chapters will be split up and others combined. I don't worry about chapter length, for me the important thing is keeping the events together. In the chapter where my MC escapes the hostage pit I'm not going to arbitrarily stop at 10 15 pages and start a new chapter, I'll let the reader see what happened, then move on to a new chapter.
     
  15. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    That... is really kinda weird... Don't get me wrong, I'm super intrigued now, if you put just that line on the back of the book I would simply just have to read more of that book.

    Seriously you've got to get with me sometime and elaborate I've got to know more about it. Its a really interesting way to keep track of time in your story as well. I think with a lot of story's, time becomes kind of ambiguous. But in yours, you could give a very specific answer as to how much time has passed in any point in that story, which i think is kinda cool.
     
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  16. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    In Book 1 I needed to get my MC pregnant. She did not want to be pregnant and tracked her cycle by phase of the moon in order to avoid becoming pregnant. One of the other characters really wanted her pregnant and secretly dosed her with an herb to re-start her cycle, which meant she no long knew when she was expected to menstruate/ovulate and I needed a sex scene to occur during a period of peak fertility. Then when the treachery was discovered there was much counting of days to figure out if she was pregnant.

    In 40K into book 2 now and know such random facts as it is currently 49 days since her last sexual encounter; 40 days since escaping the King's hostage pit; 12 days outside of the village of Slonim; she first experienced morning sickness 15 days ago; it's a waning crescent moon and the autumnal equinox will occur in 3 days.

    In order to have things like morning sickness, quickening, leaking colostrum, ect., occur "on time" I have to track exactly where she is in her pregnancy just like I had to track her menstrual cycle. I doubt a reader would notice, but I track it to make sure it's all coming together as it should.

    Random OCD side note: They are traveling by horse back across the continent of Europe and I have a map on my wall where I track how far they can reasonable travel each week. This way I know she will arrive in Warsaw the day before the equinox. This is important because I need her there for Harfest Efinht (and autumnal festival) and the opening of the hunt. (Because I have a Celtic calendar in my notebook where I track the lunar months and major Celtic holidays.) I also know she will be in the Bohemian Wald for Samhain and the Black Forest for Yule. (Because she was in Smolensk at Lughnasad.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  17. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    That's different
     
  18. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Why would she track her period according to the moon? Is that how they did it back then? I just count the number of days myself.
     
  19. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    The correlation between the typical 28 day menstrual cycle and the 29.5 lunar cycle is long held, but the actual reality is that the moon cycle does not mirror the menstrual cycle, however the presence of light at night does have measurable effects on the menstrual cycle itself. So in a way... this is a method, but not a great one for many reasons.
     
  20. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    Given the information presented, I'd guess it's a feudal setting.
     
  21. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    It's how women have tracked their cycles for centuries because it's an easy marker. I've noticed that my cycle is longer than a complete lunar cycle, full moon this time, means right after the full moon next time. It works for shorter cycles too, full moon this time means you cycle right before the full moon next time, etc. In a world w/o calendars that's the best you can get.

    No, Iron Age--target date 600 BCE.
     
  22. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    I was implying it sounded like a feudal age, rather then a specific date. You know a time of knights, kings and lords.
     

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