1. Sinaj
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    Sinaj New Member

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    Chapter Length and Book Length?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sinaj, Jun 29, 2016.

    I have written a couple novels, which are unpublished but I really wanted to focus on a new set and do something more official. Eventually I will redo, cleanup the older novels I wrote (they were written years ago).

    I have my basic outline of where it starts, where it is going to go and how it ends. I have most of the timeline mapped out and it was going to be a trilogy of three novels. It is a urban fantasy, set in modern times supernatural world with fae, vampires, magic and shapechangers.

    Book 1 was focused around one of the main characters Madeline as she get sucked into this world and learns to survive. Book 2 around Leviticus and his past. Book 3 about both of them together.

    My goal was write up to chapter ten and then go through, edit and clean it up. When I started to go through to edit the first set, I noticed my chapters are bigger than most chapters. With the prologue, chapters one through ten I'm at about 79221 words.

    Prologue, (1912 words)
    Chapter One: Not Helpless, (2289 words)
    Chapter Two: The Perfect Answer, (9278 words)
    Chapter Three: Where the Past Belongs, (6157 words)
    Chapter Four: Smoke and Mirrors, (8941 words)
    Chapter Five: For Your Entertainment, (6826 words)
    Chapter Six: Lotus Blossom, (9177 words)
    Chapter Seven: A Trick of the Light, (8823 words)
    Chapter Eight: Sugar and Spice, (9036 words)
    Chapter Nine: All the Things That I Need, (7775 words)
    Chapter Ten: The Katana, (9007 words)

    I've read and been told that usually a novel should aim to be 100,000 words, probably not to exceed 115,000 words for this type of genre. I have about 6-8 more chapters realistically to wrap up Book 1 to complete it. At my current rate, I'll probably end up going over.

    Is this too much?

    How do you determine when a chapter should being and end?

    How do you determine what to cut as excessive?
     
  2. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Personally, I think it is complete bullcrap to put a limit on how large a novel should be, regardless of genre. Sure, at some point you should maybe think about splitting it into several books rather than one book that is too heavy to even hold in your hand, but that's besides the point. If you feel that you require the book to be this long in order to explore the world and the characters properly, then by all means make it that long, assuming that you don't feel that any of the content is just unneeded filler. I also don't think long chapters are a problem. Some of my favorite books have crazy long chapters - and very few chapters as well, despite it being long - and some don't have chapters at all. I've never personally minded this, and I don't think most people who have read for a long time usually do. Books with long chapters are definetely less accessible for new readers, since most new readers don't like putting the book down until the end of the chapter, and so if the chapter is very long it can become a somewhat daunting task for them. People who have been reading for longer still often have the tendency to not want to take a break until the chapter is over, but we can also read for much longer at a time without feeling "worn out". I don't think you should ever pander to those newer readers though, instead you should expect them to eventually get used it/grow into it and be able to read your work.

    As for beginning and ending chapters, I think this usually happens kinda naturally. Most likely, each of your chapters begin and end where they do for a good reason. Some writers like to end their chapters on a cliffhangar to the next chapter. Others like each chapter to have some sort of closure. Most writers combine the two depending on how long the chapters are, and what exactly the climax is. I think it is important that your chapters are for the most part simular in length. If your chapters jump back and forth from crazy long to super short, you might want to think about ironing that out, since having each chapter be a completely different length can perhaps mess with the pacing a little. That being said, I don't think that is a rule that always applies, since I've seen crazy differences in lengths for chapters and not been bothered by it. Have a friend give it a read and see how they feel about it!

    I think you should cut something any time it isn't necessary. I mean, that is kind of a vague and obvious statement, but I think writers often don't realize how unnecessary some of their writing is until after someone has pointed it out, so again: have someone read your work! You don't need to have crazy amounts of description, nor do you need to delve so deep into your character's mind after every major twist and minor event event that the reader forgets what happened before the main character went on that two-hour-long mind-rant. My biggest pet peeve here is repitition. Doooon't do that. If the reader starts going "Ok, ok! I GET IT!" when they read your work, you've gone to far. Readers are usually smart enough to get your point fairly quickly, so don't feel like you constantly have to remind them or give more examples of what you or your characters mean.

    Wow! I wrote a lot just now didn't I? It'd be kind of ironic if I just wrote a lot of excessive stuff while trying to give advice on how not to do that, haha. Anyway, I'm sure people have varying opinions on this so it'll be interesting to see what others on the forum have to say!
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The normal word count for a novel by a new writer is 80k-100k. In your case, you're on the lower side, and I suspect that once you edit, the word count will go down (that's what happens in a lot of cases at least). My advice is to leave what is necessary and take out the rest (use beta readers if you're unsure). If you're anything like me, your earlier drafts tend to be on the wordier side.

    As far as chapter length is concerned, some people like shorter chapters, while others prefer longer ones. It really depends on the individual piece and writer.
     
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  4. Sinaj
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    Sinaj New Member

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    It isn't on the lower side as I'm not done. With how I have written, there are another 8 chapters to complete this book before it is as a point to end it. Given that it is about an average of 7922 words per chapter (rough estimate), when completed I'll be at 142,597 words for the completed Book One.
     
  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Yeah so my feeble understanding of the publishing process suggests your book is too long for most publishers. There are certainly exceptions, and I'm sure we could all name some off the tops of our heads. But we can't count on being the exception. We have to count on being the rule.

    Any particular reason you want such long chapters? Not that you should change them, but I tend to prefer shorter chapters in the books I read. Done properly, it can add a layer of suspenseful page turning. Which can totally happen in longer chapters.

    These are just my thoughts, but everything I've read about getting a first novel published suggests that the safest length for a first time novelist is between 80 and 90k.
     
  6. ILaughAtTrailers
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    ILaughAtTrailers Member

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    I think as a new writer, you should stick with the standards. As was said, try to be the rule, not the exception. If you had more credibility and experience in your background, maybe you could get away with it, but not if this is the first thing you're trying to get published. A novel for new writers should be somewhere between 75k-100k words and it varies by genre (fantasies can reach 120k, I believe). Chapters; readers want something short. There's a theory called something where the faster a reader reads a chapter, the more dopamine is released in the brain and so they'll want to keep reading your book more. I think this is what makes thrillers and short-chapter books like Harry Potter, and not something like Infinite Jest, more enjoyable to read.

    As for your book, I feel your chapters are way too long for a new writer trying to get published. This is just my personal opinion. Again I really like the advice of trying to be the rule and not the exception. Maybe find some scene breaks in the chapters that you have that you can divide into shorter chapters? Also, I think you should cut your word count a little as no publisher, at least from what I know, will publish a book that long. I'm not saying that means your book is bad, it's just that publishers have to have someway to weed out people and yours won't even be considered because it's too long and especially because you're a new writer.

    As was already said as well, first drafts tend to be on the wordier side, so maybe when you go back to do the second draft, you can cut a lot out.
     

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