1. Ives
    Offline

    Ives Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2009
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    0

    Chapter Length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ives, Jan 2, 2009.

    In a typical novel, maybe the length of an average long published and popular book, how many words, roughly, are in each chapter?
    for example, maybe the third harry potter book, a lord of the rings, any others i have not included.
    i know that no one knows exactly how many words per chapter there are, but an estimation would help.
    -thanks
     
  2. robertpaine
    Offline

    robertpaine Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    When I started writing, I chose a book of a similar length to what I was looking for (CHERUB) and I counted the amount of words on one of the pages and then worked out how many words were in the chapter approximately.

    When writing, I aim for around 2,500 words per chapter give or take a couple of hundred.

    However some chapters can be significantly shorter or longer.
     
  3. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    depends...100,000 words in 20 chapters = 5,000 per chapter on average

    100,000 words in 40 chapters = 2500 words per chapter on average

    As you can see, it depends on how many total words you want and how many chapters you use. I don't think there is norm and the number of chapters is usually determined by the development of the story, rather than pre-set.

    In my book, there are 21 chapters and 135,000 words. Some chapters are less than 2,000 words while a couple are over 10,000.
     
  4. robertpaine
    Offline

    robertpaine Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    I totally agree with NaCl, there isn't anything standard. It all depends on what YOU want to do.
     
  5. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    There's no real rule to it, and to be honest, I don't see that there needs to be. A chapter should be as long or short as it needs to be. That said, if a chapter is too long, I find it a bit more difficult to read.
     
  6. SarahN
    Offline

    SarahN Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Carolina
    I would also have to add that it depends on your audience. I am writing a novel for a younger audience 9+ so in the beginning my chapters are shorter and get longer the deeper into the novel I get. This has happened for a couple of reasons. 1. I wanted my younger readers to feel a quicker pace, and like they were making progress in the reading of the story. 2. I use 'natural' chapter markers for example the end of a day or a new scene or location.
     
  7. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    I read a weird book called black water where the chapters were a paragraph apiece sometimes.

    Style has a lot to do with it, but I think a chapter should be a complete idea in your story unto itself. If it takes 7k words to finish the idea so be it
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    This is one of those questions that keeps coming up, but there really doesn't see to be a good answer that I have found. I have found plenty of good discussions on the subject, however, by entering the following searches into Google:

    Writing how long should a chapter be
    Writing why chapters

    The second question is to me the more interesting one, but I found fewer discussions that actually addressed it. I still don't feel I've found a good enough answer. My gut feeling is that chapter breaks are mostly there as convenioent places for the reader to take a kitchen or bathroom break, or to switch off the lights and go to sleep if he or she is reading before bedtime. Yes, chapter breaks typically fall between scenes, but not between every pair of scenes. Switching POVs is often done on chapter boundaries, as are significant discontinuities in chronology. But as an organizational unit. every author seems to use them differently.
     
  9. TwinPanther13
    Offline

    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Dallas
    From what I see the next chapter may take place in the same scene or setting, but a new idea has begun.

    if there is a new idea there must be a new chapter I believe.
     
  10. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Ives,

    Pick up books off your shelf (or go to the library) and do the math. Take an average as NaCl suggested.


    Or, do an average count...determine how many lines per page, and about how many words per line. Then determine how many pages in a chapter...multiply. Then check each chapter.

    Pick novels you're interested in (the genere or the market/publisher) and use those if you desire.

    I don't think you'll find anywhere a 'rule' that says how many words per chapter is proper. What you'll find when you write, is how many words per chapter work for your particular piece.

    I've never come across an editor who remarked, "I'd have been willing to publish that novel, but the author's chapters averaged 1500 more words in them than I prefer."

    Just my two cents.

    Terry
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    there is no standard or rule, period!... some successful writers have 1-2 page long chapters, while others run to 10-30 pages...

    the only rule to follow is what will work best for the story you are telling and not what worked for anyone else's...

    what will be relevant is who you're writing for... 'tween market readers [9-12] will do better with shorter chapters, while YA and adult readers can handle pretty much any length, as long as it makes sense re the story...

    just make sure you switch chapters when/where they seem to need it...
     
  12. Scarecrow28
    Offline

    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Messages:
    496
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    That's Classified
    I try to keep it around 2,000. Some of them will be as low as 1,000 while I have a few in my novel's rough draft that are around 5,000. I've even got one that I need to divide into three or four seperate chapters that is around 10,000 (wasn't thinking as much about chapter sizes as I was about just writing and it was late at night :D)
     
  13. Rei
    Offline

    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Messages:
    7,869
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Kingston
    One book I read made the interesting decision to not even use chapters. He essentially took what would be the two main plot points were it a movie, and used them to divide it into three acts, no other formal chapters at all, but a space when he changed scenes.
     
  14. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Each chapter should have a beginning, middle, and end. However many words it takes to accomplish that. I have noticed on average most chapters are between 1000-3000 words.

    Personally I don't like chapters to be over 3000 words in novels I read.
     
  15. writer_chick
    Offline

    writer_chick Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Leeds, England
    I tend to squeeze around 3,000 words in each chapter at least. But when I write for children, a chapter could be 200 words. Just go with the flow I'd say.
     
  16. ozymandias
    Offline

    ozymandias Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Clitheroe, UK
    My chapters are generally between 2,000 and 4,000 words.
     
  17. AnonyMouse
    Offline

    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Messages:
    2,225
    Likes Received:
    337
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    All my chapters thus far have fallen between 4,000-4,500 words. But each chapter is broken into two or three sections using those * * * things that everyone is so fond of. They're usually broken up into equal parts (two segments of 2k words each, or three sections of about 1,500 words ea.). I never actually aimed for those numbers. It's just something that seems to happen naturally.

    But I am a little bothered by the chapter I just finished: 4,360 words in two parts; 352 words in the first part; 4,008 in the second. It's such an uneven split, but I can't break the second half because it's one continuous scene. :rolleyes: Oh well.
     
  18. Marcelo
    Offline

    Marcelo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    841
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Sonora, Mexico
    What do you think it's the appropiate, or approximately how long does a chapter should be? Sometimes I just feel wrong when they turn to be like 800 words... Anyway, maybe it's just my self-criticism. Correct me if I'm wrong. :redface:
     
  19. Sinbad
    Offline

    Sinbad Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2009
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    0
    A chapter should be as long as you want, but if you're really worrying about it. Each chapter in the Count of Monte Cristo is about 20 pages long, and I think in Great Expectations they're about 8. So you should be able to get an idea from that.
     
  20. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    There are lots of threads on this topic. Use the search function and one of the threads you find should have a satisfactory answer.
     
  21. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Marcelo,

    This question has come up quite often, and if you search the forum you'll find a number of threads discussing this topic at length.

    But, I believe the short answer is that there is no standard chapter length that is considered 'acceptable.' On average, YA novels have shorter chapters than adult novels, but even in that you'll find exceptions.

    It is very unlikely that an agent or an editor will pass on a manuscript because some of the chapters are too short. That is something that can easily be fixed in the editing process. The quality (or lack there of) is what will count.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  22. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    It's not a bad idea to check out other books within your selected genre and demographic. Get a sense of the average and go from there. There simply isn't any standard for books in general, and there are always exceptions that deviate drastically from the norm within genres. . .
     
  23. TedR
    Offline

    TedR New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2009
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Fargo, ND
    It doesn't really matter how long the chapters are. Of course, you don't want them to go on for sixty, seventy pages, then have the next chapter be two pages. Upon looking back at some of my previous projects, I notice that my chapters usually have two plot events before ending. But that's just me.

    In the end, it doesn't matter how long they are, but what does matter is the content contained within the chapter. Just try to find a logical cut-off point.
     
  24. Yoshiko
    Offline

    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    27
    I think that it depends on the type of novel you're writing, and what it is you're trying to achieve with it.

    For example, if a character sees the world as dull and monotonous, and seems to exist rather than live, then I find that longer chapters help to emphasise their view. Or if the character finds it a struggle to keep up with the world, and feels that they're always one step behind everyone else, then a lot of short chapters that jump around in time are more effective. But that's just one way of looking at it. :)

    A chapter ends when it ends. So don't feel as if you need to drag out scenes to make it longer.
     
  25. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    Quite right, Ted. However. . . there may be something to be said for making somewhat of a effort to standardise your format. It might slightly improve your odds as a first time author. Still, I wouldn't stress it. I doubt that they care very much.

    Chapter length is one of my least concerns. I always include some significant plot development, and try to raise questions for the reader. A good book always has you saying "well. . . just one more chapter, then I'll sleep":p. Following my little formula inevitably brings my chapter word count up to a minimum 2-3k, sometimes 7-8k, which seems fine. A little variety is nice, I think.
     

Share This Page