1. arkadia
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    arkadia Member

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    Appropriate length for chapter / Scene [Scrivener]

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by arkadia, Jan 31, 2016.

    What do you consider to be average appropriate length for a chapter in a novel?
    I realise there are all sorts of caveats and exceptions - but as an average in a fairly long novel?

    Additionally - in Scrivener, if a chapter is made up of scenes; what's a suitable length of the scenes and how many would be appropriate?
    Again - totally appreciate that there is no formula or correct answer but would appreciate a pointer as to what would help in creating a nice reading experience.

    Hope someone can help?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
  2. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've read books with chapters of about 10 pages. I've read books with chapters of more than 30 pages. I've read books with chapters varying between 30 pages and half a page. I've read books that had no chapter division.

    In the end, I believe it's up to you to find a chapter length you are comfortable with. However, I suggest you don't make all chapters 1 page long, because that would be kinda annyoing. ;)
     
  3. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    What books have you read? What's the length of the chapters in those books?

    If you liked the way those authors did it, it's not bad idea to aim for similiar result! The length of the chapter isn't the most urgent thing in books. :) Matter of your personal taste and style, I would say.
     
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  4. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    An appropriate length for a chapter is whatever you feel punctuates or otherwise influences the tone of what happens within that space according to some desired affect. Chapters are supposed to be a way for authors to manipulate how the reader receives the story and thus how they will feel at specific points along the way to the end of the book, culminating in what will hopefully have a powerful lasting impact on your reader.

    In other words, whatever you damn well decide.
     
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  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    For most people, chapter and scene lengths don't contribute to their reading experience, either positively or negatively. Especially now e-readers are so popular, it's easier than ever to put a book down at the end of any paragraph rather than waiting for a scene or chapter break. I think authors are naive if they're relying on breaks to set the pacing or tension of their novel.
     
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  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think the use of Scrivener changes anything, tbh. My scenes tend to grow in both directions (if that makes sense) until I find a smooth transition between this scene and the next scene or they simply join into one scene. When that happens I merge the two Scrivener scene documents into one (you can do that), which eliminates the concern for the hashtag if you don't want it there. As to actual length.... my chapters tend to float around 3k to 4k as an average. Of course there are plenty that are shorter and longer, but as an average.... Your mileage may vary. ;)
     
  7. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    Then why have chapters at all? Let's just abandon the convention entirely.

    We probably won't though. For the same reason that we keep acts in film and television despite the fact that people can pause their DVDs, Blurays, Digital Downloads or what have you at any point they like and come back to it later. Breaks do set pacing and contribute to story structure in a huge way. That will be my opinion until critical theory can prove it is not and was never the case.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Plenty of books don't have chapters, including ones that predate e-readers. An author is naive if they're relying on readers to stop and pause when they're told to by a few lines of space in a book.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the line spaces within a chapter simply signal a change of scene or time. If they weren't there, people would read the next line as if there was no break at all, and end up really confused because it's a half hour later, or the character is now at home instead of at work, etc.

    Chapters help set the pace of the story—not the pace of reading it. The end of a chapter signals when one part of the story has reached a mini-conclusion. It doesn't matter whether the reader continues reading or puts the book down at that point to take a break. That's entirely down to the reader's preference, and it's perfectly possible—with or without e-readers—to walk away in the middle of a scene, never mind the middle of a chapter. I've done that all my life. When I have to stop reading, I stop. That's what bookmarks are for.

    As to chapter lengths? I have no opinion on that. Whatever works. I know I have short chapters in my book that are around 3000 words. And a couple of chapters that are over 10,000 words. Most are somewhere in between, but each one contains a mini-story. It's just that some are mini-er than others! :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
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  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert exactly. They should be used to show that time has passed or a particular passage has ended, not to create tension. The words themselves should create the tension.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I think I see what you were driving at. Cliffhangers. Yes, of course. I'm not a fan of cliffhangers at all. I mean, you want your readers to continue reading, but ending every chapter with a cliffhanger just feels like a cheap trick, doesn't it? I don't like TV series doing that either.
     
  12. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I am part Lemming, I like cliff hangers at the end of a chapter, I want that reason to continue reading. I do expect a conclusion at the end of the book that at least wraps up most of the questions even if they are found to be "inaccurate" in the next book of a series. Life is uncertain and novels/stories should follow IMO.

    I do like a chapter to finish a scene, for me it makes it easier to remember where I was in the story, sort of a memory aid to be able to logically store information in my mind.
     
  13. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    I suppose it comes down to your personal philosophy.

    I believe there's more at the writer's disposal than mere words.

    If the physical structure of the text was meaningless then poets wouldn't be experimenting with format.

    There are some writers who experiment with typeface changes. White text on black pages. Borders around the pages. A whole page with a single paragraph in the middle of the page. A single sentence. A single word. A single exclamation point.

    There is a lot writers can do to control the ebb and flow of the story.
     
  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume something, that your question is more or less the same one I had when I was considering Scrivener as a primary novel-writing tool:

    How does a writer, who thinks in terms of page count, deal with software that only 'thinks' in word count?

    I started with the used-to-be standard for page length, 250 words. It's actually a bit higher than that, but most chapters begin eight double-spaced lines down from the top and that takes up the slack.

    In Word, I shoot for 10-page chapters. In Scrivener, that translates to 2500 words.

    But scenes vs. chapters?

    A lot of scenes—I'd go so far as to say most—don't end when the chapter ends. Chapters end at a moment of tension or at a point where a question is raised, a question big enough to get the reader to start the next chapter. And yes, sometimes that moment or question comes right at the end of the scene, but...

    What we're really talking about is breaking up a story into sane units.

    Scenes break up the outline; chapters break up the prose. So, there is no direct correlation between the two.

    Best approach?

    Write the story.
    Deal with chapter lengths afterwards. For my money, it's an editing task, not a writing task.
     
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