1. Toxic Black
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    Toxic Black Member

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    Average number of chapters for a first time author?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Toxic Black, Dec 9, 2012.

    I hear that unknown authors are only allowed to have a certain number of chapters to stand a chance at being published, that too many chapters is a turn off for publishing houses. I'm half way through writing my first book, but not halfway through the story. Having not planned it out very well I have got to the point where the second half needs a lot more chapters than I first thought, but I don't really want to sacrifice much from the first half of the book as it really builds up important layers between the main character relationships.
    Could anyone give me a rough idea of the basic chapter and length guidelines for new aspiring authors? Should I just continue naturally and end up with 28 (ish) chapters? Or should I attempt to condense and cut the number down?

    Thanks
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    The number of chapters limit is highly inaccurate. I believe you're talking word count, which is totally different. Word count needs be between 80-100k for new writers, with perhaps 110k being the far outside. Since most novels are in the 80-120k range, that fits just fine. As for chapters, there aren't any limits that I have ever heard on them. To consider that a limitation puts you even further in box without even getting into word count.

    Still, you have a limited amount of word, use them wisely and make them count.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't necessarily say there's a 'rule' for new writers for word count either. Look at books in the genre you're writing in to get an idea of typical word count; it can vary. The more important thing is, as Kate says, to use words wisely and make them count.
     
  4. Toxic Black
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    Toxic Black Member

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    Hmm.. Thats interesting, thanks. Your comments are both very useful. I haven't actually been keeping a check on my word count, might be a good time to start!
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    word counts are far more important since most publishers look for 80-100k in general from new, unpublished authors. E-books tend to be different, but it's easy to put slop out that way.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't rely on the size of books in the bookstores, since most of those will be by well-established authors, not beginners with a first book...

    to maximize your book's chances of being published by a paying press, stick to the 80-100k 'preference' [not a 'rule']... going shorter or longer than that will definitely lessen your chances, which makes no sense, if you really want to be established as a 'published author'...
     
  7. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I've never heard of a 'chapter rule' but I have heard the word count rule many times before. I think as long as you're not using too many or too few words, it doesn't matter how many chapters.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no word count rule in re chapters, so they can be as short, or as long as the writer wants...
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Obviously, there are limits dictated by common sense. You could write a novel consisting of a single chapter, but you would probably, as a new writer, have a very difficult time selling it to a publisher.

    At the other extreme, if your hundred thousand word novel has ten thousand chapters, rotsa ruck.
     
  10. ZarisRedmist
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    ZarisRedmist Member

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    Please correct me if I am wrong on this but I am a first time writer was well, and it was always my thinking that one should write as much as they can and if the publisher turns you away because the word count is too high, or there are too many chapters its not like you can't take the over excediture of words or chapters and place them in a later book. Or am I completely wrong in that thought?
     
  11. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    The preference, which is a polite way of saying "This is what we're going to look for the vast majority of the time," for new, unpublished authors is 80-100k words. 110k would be the furthest over I think you'd get away with. Anything less then 75k won't fly either. Now, these are for adult fiction, not YA, however, The Hunger Games checked in 25 words short of 100k, but she was established in the business too.

    Stick to the preferences that they say if you wish to try to get published. There also several other items you'll need to have to try to get off the agent's slush pile. But the word count, as Maia has said too, is the general rule of thumb.

    Chapter number, provided like Cog said, that your 100k novel has 1k in chapters, then good luck. However, the chapter amounts don't mean much in the case of getting published. I'll probably be pushing 45-50 when done with my first draft. A solid content edit will probably combine some of those into one chapter, bringing the number down. Word count is very important in your odds to getting published. If you go over the number in your first draft, that's OK, because a good, tight editing will probably drop your words down 15-20 percent. From let's say 140k, that puts you in the 112k range-a bit over but maybe not enough to get an outright rejection. However, 200-300k will.
     
  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    In general I'd agree with everything said above. Having said that my latest book was 250k words and a hundred and twenty chapters, and I have to admit that when I started going past chapter one hundred I felt very iffy about it.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  13. Toxic Black
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    Toxic Black Member

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    Great advice, thanks
     
  14. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    Well, I'm royally screwed. At my current pace, I've estimated that I'll get between 37,500 and 40,000 words.


    Does anyone here know the recommendation for a book aimed at young adults?
     
  15. Rose Hunt
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    Rose Hunt Member

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    Nothing wrong there. When your story is finished, look to see where it can be fattened at.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just go to a book store or library and you'll see for yourself how they're structured... basically, for the younger half of YA, chapters are shortish, total word count around 40 k...
     
  17. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    Thank you!
     
  18. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Actually while on the subject, what does the forum feel about not having chapters at all, i have read a couple of books where the author doesn't bother with them. There are small dividers between the defined chapters and scene changes, but no large title saying 'Chapter 12'. Examples such as 'Home' by Marilynne Robinson or anything by terry prachett.
     
  19. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I think Cog mentioned it above. You can write a novel without chapters but you'll have a harder time selling it than a more conventionally structured novel.

    Personally, I'd find it stressful reading a book without defined chapters or at the very least breaks. I think there're natural breaks the pacing of most(at least the ones I'm familiar with) stories. It would take a very skilled writer to pull off a book without chapters.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     

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