1. beard
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    beard New Member

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    Chapter length

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by beard, Aug 13, 2011.

    Is 4-5k words too long for a chapter (assuming the book is roughly 100k words)?

    Also, a friend of mine told me about a book his Danish Grandfather wrote years ago. The book was published in Denmark and then America. Both of us have spent dozens of hours scouring the internet but nothing can be found of the book (we only have a general description and the author's name, no title). Would writing something based on the same scenario be considered plagiarism in any form? I've never read the story but understand the basic concept and it's not anything I've ever heard or seen before and I'd love to try my hand and creating something with the same premise in mind.
     
  2. lemurkat
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    lemurkat Senior Member

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    It would depend on how general the concept was. But seriously, if it is now out of print and unavailable and pretty obscure anyway, I think you'd be okay unless entire passages of the story were identical. Many, many stories share the same basic concept.

    And chapter length is highly debateable. Some authors use long chapters, some use short. Personally, I prefer shortish ones. I read a lot, and I read on my break at work. And I prefer to finish reading at the end of a chapter. It really, really urks me when I have to stop in the middle of a passage because otherwise I'll be late resuming work.

    In my current novel the chapters are around 2.5-3k words which roughly equates to 10 pages in the font and page size that I am using. With my previous novel, written during NaNoWriMo, I wrote one chapter per day so each chapter is around 1.8k words. I finished the novel in 46k words and had to flesh it out with appendices and a short story to make the 50k (and btw, it's the one I published so you can buy it below). I also use line and a half spacing because it makes both reading and writing that wee bit easier. I like gaps between my lines.

    For fast paced, exciting novels I would tend towards shorter chapters, but maybe not as ridiculously few as James Patterson's (I swear, his books are half blank spaces). For epic sagas or introspctive books, maybe longer ones. I would say the best thing is to keep it consistent - don't have one really long chapter followed by two short ones. But even then, you could probably get away with it. Children's books should have short chapters - both to keep the kid's attention spans and also to make it easier if mum or dad needs to read a chapter.

    So by that distinction, 5k does seem a little long, but if there's no easy way to break it up, well, there's no need to force a chapter end.
     
  3. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    Dont shorten a chapter if it loses some meaning. Only shorten if it still makes complete sense, dont worry about the length.. :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    basing a new story on an existing one's concept is not plagiarism... it's done all the time... just don't use the same characters, change the location and such...

    as for chapter length, some authors like james patterson have 2-3 page chapters and others are near book length, so just let yours be as long as they need to be...
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And they doin't need to all be the same length either.

    I feel another template coming on. How many times has this question come up?
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    too many to count, cog!
     
  7. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I'm not really concerned with chapter length, but divisions within chapters. Do I place my scene cuts in another chapter or do I continue in the new scene within the same chapter. How much time elapses within each chapter and what conflicts are presented or resolved? This is again my first attempts at this. I started on another story, but I lost interest after I laid down the first, what I assumed, chapter and began this one. So I'm totally a novice and chapter length/breaks and formation. I should google some tutorials or something.
     
  8. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    Whatever works, works.

    There is probably an average chapter length floating around somewhere. I would guess it's probably around 3-4k words. But in that range there are one word chapters and books that consist of only 3 or 4 chapters in total. Some books don't have chapters at all.

    Just go with the flow.
     
  9. lemurkat
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    lemurkat Senior Member

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    If you've not finished the story and you're having difficulty deciding where to put in chapters. Don't. Just keep writing. When you come back to read through it later, with any luck you will realise into which bits feel the most like chapter ends or beginnings. But if you get too hung up on making them now, you may never finish your book and that would be a real pity.
     
  10. skeloboy_97
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    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

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    Your limit is completely acceptable.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bfg... sounds to me like you hadn't done enough reading before you started trying to write...

    all you need do is read lots of well-written novels and study how they're divvied up... you'll find a wide variety among successful novelists' works, so should be able to find a method that works for you...
     
  12. DBock
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    DBock Member

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    Chapters should divide up the book in a way that makes sense. Personally I like them to create cliffhangers, a place where I can stop and be excited to come back to. Do whatever makes you happy therefore in chapter creation. Who cares. :) d
     
  13. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    This just made me giggle. I'm going to take that, as you assume I'm a younger writer and be thoroughly flattered. :p

    It may be that I've read too many different books. Some bigger than Harry Potter DH, which would end up making for longer chapters, and others much shorter with shorter chapters. I honestly never did figure out how they determined when they would break their chapters. And then add the fact that some authors make breaks within chapters that seem like sub chapters. There's so many ways to do it.

    Generally I write preschool tales, or poetry. Since this is my first attempt at something of a larger, more pros nature, I'm asking tons of questions. Even if I never publish it I want it to be something I'm proud of in the end. :)
     
  14. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I am not the OP, but I'm totally stealing this idea.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, i didn't assume you are 'younger' in age, bfg... just in writing experience, as the result of not having read [or studied] enough good writing, with a view to learning the basics... such as how and when to start a new chapter...

    each writer has his/her own reasons for how they do it and you'll have to decide what yours are on your own, since no one but you is writing your novels, are they?

    i suggest you take a good look at how well-written novels similar to what you're writing are divided up and then simply start writing and let what you write tell you when/how it wants to be separated into scenes and chapters... if you don't like it later, you can always change things... but until you have something written, there's nothing to change!

    feel free to email me if you need any help along the way...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  16. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Darn. I liked feeling youthful again! :D

    I actually did go back and wrote basic headings for sections. Not necessarily an outline, but the aspects I have figured out in my head will fit into a certain area. I'm working off of that at the moment for a chapter change, even if I do end up subdividing from there.

    And...I just scrapped 5 pages of text and changed my point of view for writing. Haha. I think it offers more this way (for the moment at least) by keeping something up to the imagination or at least guessing. It allowed me to introduce some characters earlier and at least give more personality to them.
     
  17. walshy12238
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    walshy12238 Senior Member

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    My chapter length usually varies, but I think the average is around 2.5-3K. I don't worry about how long they are, only if they are relevant to the plot, advance the plot in some way, and develop my characters. I think those are the main things to have, and whether it's 1000 words, or 5000 words: if it's relevant, the amount of words shouldn't matter.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you still are, at less than half my age!
     
  19. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I would say it doesn't matter. Readers are pretty savvy so only break chapters when it feels natural. The story will look disjointed if you force breaks.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A chapter should be just long enough to contain all the words in it, and no longer.
     
  21. marksteen
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    marksteen New Member

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    I heard a good view on chapter length while browsing the other day

    'A chapter is like a skirt, it should be long enough to cover all the bits but be short enough to hold your interest' or something similar lol

    Quality :D
     
  22. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    As a reader, I am completely obvlivious to chapters. Is this unusual? I tend to read books as one continuous stream and pause when it suits me (usually when I fall asleep since I do most of my reading in bed at night). There are exceptions, like "One Day" where each chapter relates to a different time in the chacters' lives, and when reading that I was conscious of the chapters.

    As a writer, I have very clear chapters, each one being a rounded and complete part of the overall story. I even keep track of my chapters on a spreadsheet but then I can be a bit of an anorak at times. As to length, they seem to come out at about 2,800 words, give or take 10%.
     

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