1. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter Length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GuardianWynn, May 25, 2015.

    Should it be consistent?

    Looking at a WIP I noticed that chapter 1(1300) Chapter 2 (1200) and then chapter 3(3700) is that bad?

    On that point does. What do you think is the reason you end a chapter?
     
  2. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    Not necessarily, though 3700 vs. 1200 seems excessive.
     
  3. VirtuallyRealistic
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    VirtuallyRealistic Active Member

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    A chapter's only purpose is to tell a section of the story. I don't think it matters whether that means 1000 or 4000 words as long as it serves that purpose.

    In The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss the chapters range from half a page to 14 pages. It never bothered me.
     
  4. Vellidragon
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    Vellidragon Member

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    Yeah, it shouldn't have to be consistent, though I suppose you can aim for that if you really want to. A lot of books I've read weren't exactly consistent with the length. The final chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is only 74 words long. If it works, it works, and I probably wouldn't try to artificially stretch it just to increase the chapter length.

    I use my chapters to divide the story into thematic units, though it's hard to explain what I mean by that. Things usually make more sense in my head than outside of it.
     
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  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh nice point. I wasn't thinking of changing the chapters to fit a length like that. I was thinking of dividing long chapters into smaller ones to be more consistent. Think that is bad?
     
  6. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Depends on the pace you want the book to go. If you're only following one character then you probably want the chapters to be somewhat consistent in length, right? But if you're following two or three, then either give them all equal chapter lengths or distribute the chapter lengths appropriately to whoever's story is most important.

    Those page numbers are way too small to begin with I think to even be asking this question. Most books I read have chapters of 5000-7000 words and then maybe a 3000 word chapter or a 9000 word chapter thrown in and it doesn't make a difference what it is because if it's a good story the reader won't care about the chapter length but just the story.

    The ending of a scene or the advancement of a plot point. It shouldn't feel like it's happening right in the middle of something. It should be at a comfortable place in the story, maybe right before a time jump or something.

    And then, of course, cliffhangers.
     
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  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my case I am following one character and I am inconsistent! No! :cry:

    I guess it is kind of arbitrary isn't it?

    Still not sure I am doing that part right.

    Like example in my WIP.

    Chapter 01 is her in a cell waiting to go to trial and the beginning of the trial. It cuts on the judge asking for a recess. I guess this is cliff hanger?

    Chapter 02 is her having a flashback while the judge is gone. Reflecting on her first day in jail. Pretty short and simple.

    Chapter 03 funny enough being long one wraps up the trial and has her put on a train. Bulk of the chapter is her having a conversation with the train conductor.

    Chapter 04 is her dream which is another flashback.

    Chapter three is what is really getting to me. It seems like the wrap up and the train are different scenes but maybe I just lack the understanding of what a different scene really means. They are related. It doesn't seem to do anything to split them. What do you think?
     
  8. Urban Profanity
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    Urban Profanity Member

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    I aim for between 2k and 3k, which seems to fit best with my style and subject matter, but they are interspersed with shorter vignettes of 500 words or so.
    I've read lots of books with varied chapter lengths, and plenty where they're more structured. I think it's something you should worry about after you've completed the first draft, when you might be able to see how it flows.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In the work I'm currently querying, I have some chapters that are about 1k and several that are 10k. Each 10K chapter covers a period of time with a specific conflict, and so breaking them into smaller units would not be helpful to the internal structure of the story.
     
  10. Hannah0113
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    Hannah0113 Member

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    I don't think it matters, to be honest. While I prefer shorter chapters, I don't mind longer ones at all. If I'm going to put a book down for a break, I'm going to do it when it feels natural, whether or not there is a chapter break. In your chapter that is 3700, if there is a part somewhere in there that feels natural to separate into smaller chapters, I would do it. If not, don't worry about it.
     
  11. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I don't think chapter length is too big of a deal, as long as they're not so long that your reader's going to be at it for hours and can't put their book down to like eat or work or ... feed their children I guess. In game design we think about play session length and I think that's a good thing to apply to chapter lengths too - if it's meant to be really deep and engrossing, long chapters are more suited. If you're doing something a bit more light-hearted or comical, shorter chapters might fit better. Think of the mood you want your reader to be in when they're reading your story. Do you want every moment to be them curled up in bed, wide-eyed at 3AM because they just can't put it down? Do you want them checking in on their lunch break every day and be happy with that?

    You can also utilize brief non-chapter breaks, things separated with asterisks or pound signs or w/e, if you want say a brief break in tension without but not a full chapter end. Say you want to continue the tone and theme of the current chapter but it's been a bit lengthy and you want to give your reader a bit of a breather.

    If your chapters tend to run shorter that's not much of an issue, but you can also use that method to merge shorter chapters together - maybe incorporate your flashback bits into your regular ones? You could separate out your wrap-up and train scene that way too.

    Ultimately it's all pretty arbitrary. There's no specific right way to do it. Just think about how YOU want to do it, how it'll best serve your story's pace and your reader's time, and go from there.
     
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  12. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    That's a relief. Some of my chapters vary to that degree as well.

    I agree with VR, as long as you get done what you set out to do, it doesn't matter the length. It's kind of like high school -- they force you to follow this one structure but it's so limiting, and it's not how writing happens. I say continue to do what you're doing. If that's how it flows out, then that's how the story is meant to be told through you.
     
  13. scrub puller
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    scrub puller New Member

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  14. scrub puller
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    scrub puller New Member

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    Yair . . .

    EdFromNY

    "Each 10K chapter covers a period of time with a specific conflict, and so breaking them into smaller units would not be helpful to the internal structure of the story."

    Yeah mate but it might be helpful to the internal structure of your readers bladder . . . I believe you have to consider breaks and intermissions and the "I'll just finish this chapter" thoughts of your readers.

    Cheers.
     
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  15. ladybird
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    ladybird Contributing Member

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    Surely a chapter is a long as it needs to be. Just sayin'
     

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