1. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Bloated Chapters?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mantha Hendrix, May 17, 2010.

    Do you think a single chapter can be a bit bloated... I've a lot to get done in my current chapter, and I'm completely unwilling to split it up.

    As a reader myself sometimes I feel that, with long chapters, it can almost seem like I'm barely moving through the story.
     
  2. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I doubt that you have a real problem here, Mantha. You've obviously made the decision that this segment of the story definitely belongs as one single chapter, and if you have concerns about it being bloated, then it's a near-certainty that you'll write it in as efficient a way as possible.

    Chapters do vary greatly in length, not just from novel to novel or from author to author, but actually within a single novel. I tend to deal in fairly "short-ish" chapters as a personal preference, because I agree with your assertion that readers can get frustrated or bored with long chapters, but I think in my own novel that the chapters varied anywhere from about 5 pages to around 20 pages.

    But the important thing was that they were all the length that I felt they had to be in order to tell the story that I wanted to tell. :)
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would only imagine a chapter feeling "bloated" if it were to be filled with, well, filler. If the information contained moves the story forward, then I see no bloating.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course it can... it can also be anorexic... or just about anything you can imagine...

    the point is, do you want your chapter to be a compelling read, making us eager to get to the next chapter?...

    or do you want it to be so overcrowded we need a machete to hack our way through it?

    or so undernourished it dies of starvation before we get past the first page?
     
  5. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    As a reader, I tend to like shorter chapters. I feel like I'm getting somewhere in the book.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why not measure your progress bt page numbers then?

    A chapter should be no longer, and no shorter, than it needs to be. Whatever reasonnable scheme the author uses to divide the story content into chapters will probably result in some length variation, and maybe some chapters that are substantially longer or shorter than the average. If you arbitrarily put chapter breaks based on page count, your chapters will probably SEEM more ragged.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it's because I'm used to working to a word count, but I've always preferred to keep my chapters similar length. My ideas and 'bites of action usually fall naturally into 10-14 pages of double spaced A4, so of course the word count varies a bit if there is more/less dialogue etc. When I'm reading a novel, although once or twice is okay, I find it distracting and irritating if there are noticeable differences in the length of chapter.
     
  8. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    If it's a first draft, just write it, and worry about stuff like chapter lengths and word count later on. I'm a compulsive editor and I edit as I go, and know it can be easy to become obsessed with that sort of thing instead of just getting on with the business of writing the story.
    I must admit that, as a reader, I like chapters to be around 8 pages, but I'm not going to worry if I encounter one that's 12 pages long. After all, if the story's that good, I'm not going to notice, am I ??
     
  9. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    To a point a chapter needs to be a self-contained narrative. It needs to focus on one particular event within your story, and if the event is too long for one chapter, the event itself needs staggering to fit into the chapters.

    However, it should be noted that a chapter is only as long as it needs to be and as short as it needs to be. You shouldn't go into a chapter aiming to write eight pages if the narrative is more naturally suited to four, because you'd end up writing filler. Similarly, you shouldn't aim to write that same eight pages for a twenty-page narrative, because it'd end up being the bare bones and wouldn't be detailed enough.

    For reference, my chapters average out at somewhere between 12 and 15 pages of A4 double-spaced, but if a chapter is shorter or longer, even if it is significantly shorter or longer, it doesn't worry me. If there's inconsistency between the lengths of chapters on a regular basis, however, it does, as generally chapters tend to be fairly uniform in length because the reader wants to know when the end of the chapter will generally be, and editors are aware of that. The longer chapters and shorter chapters should be the exception rather than the rule.
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    hahaha :D I love your remarks.

    As a reader I really don't care about chapter lengths as long as it keeps me interested in the story. From a writer's point of view, that means you have to keep the story moving with every sentence, paragraph......

    If a reader starts counting the pages of a chapter, I'll take that as-- the writing is not good enough. So, stop worrying about your chapter length, the most important thing as a writer is to concentrate on what you are writing in the chapter.
     
  11. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Ok! Thanks guys, I think I'm a bit more at ease now
     
  12. Meliha
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    Meliha Member

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    I agree with this. And most of the time I have no idea what chapter I am on. I finished a book today and I honestly have no idea how many chapters it has. Even page numbers I'll only chack so that if marker slips I know where I am roughly. I'll read if I enjoy it, if I don't enjoy it I'll stop reading - IMO its really about the story.
     
  13. s.knight
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    s.knight Banned

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    my chapters never get bloated, theyre macro-biotic :D
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's good advice from cog and manav... be smart and take it...
     
  15. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Chapter Length

    I know this topic has been done to death, but I have a specific dilemma I was wondering if I can get some input on.

    All the chapters in my book are roughly 3500-5500 words long. (About 7-11 pages in Microsoft word)

    Now, the 2nd chapter in my book is only 2500 words long (5 pages in Microsoft word). I see this as a problem of consistency in chapter length (or perhaps call it parallelism).

    I tried my best to try and extend the chapter or somehow merge with another chapter, but it cannot be done. What I have to say is said perfectly in 2500 words.

    Would a reader get turned off by this sort of chapter inconsistency early on in the book? I mean, if the 2500 words chapter was deeper in the book, I could see it being OK (I don't know why though). Any thoughts or inputs? Am I just being paranoid?
     
  16. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    A reader is going to be pleased if the chapter reads well and is logical, and not forced (which they will tell if you force it). A reader cares NOTHING about chapters and there sizes to each other.

    Many books i read (Fantasy, Thriller) have chapters that range from 30 pages to two pages.

    Write your story correctly. Write what the story asks for. Not what you think you need to do (Putting filler in your chapter).
     
  17. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    Well, think about when you read. Do you care all that much if not all chapters have about the same word count? I know that I don't.
     
  18. litchickuk
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    litchickuk Member

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    A book will have a natural flow, its just finding it for yours. An action/adventure or a horror will usually have shorter chapters than an historical novel or a science fiction book, where more detail is included. Usually chapters find their own length and sometimes, though it is not neat, some chapters might be longer than others in order to fit pace and plot.
     
  19. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    In the book I'm writing now, I've dispensed with pre-arranged chapter divisions. Instead I've written it in "scenes", divided by:

    * * *

    It's only when I've finished that I will go back and put in chapter numbers, if at all. Plenty of famous works don't have chapter numbers. Pratchett mostly uses the asterisks.

    Some "scenes" are longer than others - it's just the nature of storytelling.
     
  20. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, I have never worried about this ever. :p Most of my scenes fall into 2000-3000 word chunks, but as I rarely use chapters and do as Stubeard does, it really doesn't stress me. :p

    I do know that when reading some certain old novels from the 17th/18th centuries, there were no chapter breaks and that mentally asphixiated me. But as long as, from time to time, there's a pause, even if it's only every 20 or 30 pages, I'm good. :p I don't think about chapters much, but I do tend to try to read to the end of a scene if I have the time. Not finding a scene break made me accidentally skip dinner when reading Moll Flanders. :p
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do NOT make all your chapters match in size!... do what is advised above and let them vary according to what needs to be in them...
     
  22. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    One chapter = one scene.

    Take however long you need to describe all the action in one scene from one character's point of view. Once this scene is finished and you're moving onto another scene, it's time to move on to another chapter.

    However, if you find that your scene description (and therefore chapter) is only half a page long, then either there's not enough going on in your scene to warrant its inclusion, or you've not described it as fully as you ought. :)
     
  23. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I don't agree with this at all. A scene may be small or even required to be small and still be a vital part of the story. You should NEVER force length of a scene to fill pages. No harm in taking a second look if you are missing description and such. If not, then keep it as it is.

    And multiple scenes can definitely make up a chapter. The only thing to keep in mind is that there should be logical connections between the scenes in a chapter.

    On the other hand, there is no such rules that a small scene or even a paragraph can't make up a chapter.
     
  24. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    A chapter will have a theme, or a feel.

    It can have multiple scenes to complete what a certain chapter is asking for.

    So i'd have to agree with, Manav.
     
  25. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    This is a major (and complete) misunderstanding of what I have written. I do not advocate "padding out" a scene to "fill pages". I cannot think of a single scene in any book I have read that lasts only a few paragraphs. This is because, if there is so little going on, the author quite sensibly chooses to omit it from the story.
     

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