1. nygiants_0000
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    nygiants_0000 New Member

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    Chapter length variation

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by nygiants_0000, Feb 12, 2012.

    Is chapter length variation a problem in novels. I ask this because my novel is very fast paced and takes place over a long time period (1958-1973). I fit this into 113 000 words but it has resulted in variation in the chapter length in my novel. I have chapters that are only 600 words (which would be about two pages in a novel) and some which breach 5000 words.

    any replies would be appreciatied.
     
  2. Jamez
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    Jamez Member

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    I don't think there are any hard rules regarding chapter length. I've read several books which had chapters that were only half a page long. I've also read 1000+ page books that only have a handful of chapters.

    The question you should ask yourself: does the varying chapter length fit your novel?
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    No, variation in chapter length isn't a problem.

    There's no reason why chapters should be uniform in length, and indeed I would argue that it's a bad thing. Chapter length, properly used, can be an excellent pace-setting tool in a novel.

    The only possible problem is putting chapter breaks in the wrong place. I usually relate chapters to like breathing- if you're in the middle of and part of the story process you automatically know where to put them, where they feel right. And if you put them in the wrong place, you can feel that it's wrong.

    Chapters of any length can work, but only if they fit the demands of the particular story.
     
  4. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    I read a book that had chapters LITERALLY only 3 sentences long.
    (It was a fairy tale book thing-y)

    But for me a chapter should be at least 5 pages (1500 words?)
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Did it work?

    Why?
     
  6. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Because it saves trees?

    It would bug the hell outta me if a book consisted of really short chapters the whole way through, because for me it interrupts the story flow and prevents me getting lost in the story - it's like constantly reminding you of the novel structure and this breaking the suspension of disbelief/immersion in the world.

    On the other hand, when chapters are really really really long, I get story fatigue because there are no natural breaks where I can go to the loo and have a cuppa tea :D
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto the 'no' answers to the op's question...

    re short ones, james patterson's habitual 2-3 page ones bug the bleep outa me for 3 reasons...

    1.it makes no sense to have them that short... at least not story-wise, which brings me to #2...

    2.i suspect he does so only to plump up too-short mss, being too lazy [or greedy] to write decent sized novels...

    3.it does waste trees!
     
  8. twelveninetysix
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    twelveninetysix Member

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    Gonna disagree with you there mammamaia. It may be that it doesn't work for Patterson, but I've been reading a lot of Vonnegut lately and most of his are around two pages, tops. It works because his writing style is more a series of sketches rather than a highly detailed description of events. He often jumps around, and regularly pauses for little snatches of thought or anecdotes that tell us more about the characters.

    So really, just fit your chapter lengths to the scenes. If you're writing quick conversations, have short chapters. If you're writing big long battle scenes or whatever, then either have a long chapter, or break it up at suitable points. I seriously doubt that most readers would be too put off by whatever you do.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I seem to have developed a habit of having chapters approximately the same length (within 2-3 pages of each other) - but why or how that happened I have no idea. And I don't think there's any rational reason for it - in my writing or anyone else's. A friend of mine writes out her entire MS without chapter breaks. Then, during the 'first read' after it sits for a while, she makes notes of where the chapters should be. She pays no attention to length - only where the breaks seem natural.
     
  10. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Let me quote(my memory is kinda rusty, it was along time ago, but here goes) there was a chapter in that book like that:

    CHAPTER 5
    The bunny blah blah blah carrots blah blah blah blah.

    CHAPTER 6


    Yup, it was literally A SENTENCE LONG!
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Have you considered using the Search function? This question has been discussed to death in many, many threads.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The first draft of my novel was about 78,000 words, and had eight chapters. So my chapters averaged out to nearly 10,000 words each. I had scene breaks within each chapter, though.

    But who cares how long chapters are? They're arbitrary. I've read a great many books on writing and taken four online courses in writing, and never once has any author or instructor even mentioned chapter length. It is not an issue.

    And look at the novels you have on your bookshelf. Some have short chapters, some have very long chapters, some have variable chapter lengths. But they all got published, didn't they?

    Seriously, there are many things you have to worry about when trying to write a good novel, but chapter length is not one of them.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1296...

    i don't see how we're disagreeing, since i was only referring to patterson... i've been a great fan of vonnegut's from the get-go and have no problem with his use of short chapters, since he does it with good reason and to great effect... which patterson does not, imo...
     

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