1. Tink
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    Tink New Member

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    Chapter length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tink, Nov 6, 2012.

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post so I promise to keep it short.

    How long should a chapter be? Is there an average number of chapters or an average chapter word count?

    I am currently attempting to write my first novel and I am aiming at the usual 80 000 - 100 000 word count in total. I personally don't like chapters that are too short because I like to get my teeth stuck into them, but equally I don't like them too long because I end-up flicking forward to see how many pages are are left to the end of a chapter so that I can go to sleep!

    Any help would be gratefully received.

    Thanks,

    Tink.
     
  2. Nick Kilcoyne
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    Nick Kilcoyne Member

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    I always thought a chapter ended when you felt it ended. I never think to myself, "this chapter is 15 pages, it's over now." With that said, I hate when chapters get too long. I like to feel like I am making progress, also chapters are a good place to take a break so I like short chapters like 5 page even.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum.

    This is a topic that has been discussed numerous times. Before posting a question, please do a search of the forums to see if your question has been asked (and answered) before.
     
  4. Tink
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    Tink New Member

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    Hi, I used the 'search' function using many keywords and it couldn't find anything. I also looked back and read a number of other interesting posts but to no avail. But thank you for your useful comment.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    chapters should be as long as they need to be... and don't all have to be the same length...
     
  6. Knarfia
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    Knarfia Member

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    Grapes of Wrath had many short chapters, and I think that it helped with the pacing, as it is a rather long book. But it also contained chapters that were long, which just goes to show there are no hard and fast rules about this.
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Chapter's are however long they need to be. I've heard some writers say to treat them like a short story within your novel. To me, in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with a one page chapter anymore then there is with a 30 page chapter. As Maia would say on the matter "There as long as they need to be!"
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    People will tell you to write them as long as they need to be but I also believe if you're writing genre
    do a bit of research - if you want to write a ya book or horror or fantasy or whatnot - check out what seems
    to be the trends. No use banging out a forty page chapter only to have a publisher tell you the
    average for your genre is twenty-five.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I just did a search for "chapter length" in the title and found 8 different threads in the past six months.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Even genre fiction doesn't have set limits as to how long a chapter should be.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    All chapters should be exactly 2,512 words long. Any writer who violates this rule will have their writer's license revoked and will be barred from publication anywhere more prestigious than Moose Manure Monthly magazine. Fines may also be assessed by the Board of Regulation of Prose Fiction, Subcommittee on Chapter Length, Adverbs, and Semicolons.

    Beware!
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Now that's some funny stuff right there! :D
     
  13. Oswulf
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    Oswulf New Member

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    An average chapter in an average novel is between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Many are much shorter than this and some are much longer.
     
  14. Lightning
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    Lightning Member

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    This is correct, but with that in mind if you tailor your mind to simply meet that bracket then it might not make sense. It really depends on who your audience is. If you're making a grand novel about dragons and a war (for example) then maybe longer grander sentences are the best thing to go with. If you're writing a simpler novel then maybe try shorter sentences, especially if you're writing for a younger audience (in general).

    It also depends on what's happening in the chapter. If you end your chapter at a point that doesn't make any sense and doesn't flow correctly, then the length won't matter at all and people will simply be confused (at least I would be).

    This is probably all wrong and completely useless, but I just thought I'd offer my assistance. In any case, enjoy your writing and remember to credit me when you're a best selling author ;)

    -Lightning
     
  15. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    Personally, I enjoy novels where the chapter length reflects the pace and tone of the story. Keep in mind that chopping chapters to conform to a specific length will feel forced to the reader and may stagnate action
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    A chapter should be long enough to convey all the necessary plot points you want. In my current WIP they range from about 1000 to 7000 words, depending purely on the plot. Don't get hung up on it is my advice. Write the story then worry about whether its well written and leave worrying about trivial things like chapter length until last.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    In Bukowski’s Factotum, chapters are sometimes just a single paragraph, while in McCarthy’s The Road, there are no chapters.

    And that’s how long a chapter should be: between a paragraph and a book.
     
  18. richard02
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    richard02 New Member

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    I be familiar with the variety to be around 5000 words plus or less. But I have had one chapter with about 300 words.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Certain topics come up time and time again. And the comments are very repetitive. Besides, finding that your question has already been answered provides instant gratification, as well as the ability to move on to something more advanced.

    Frankly, I found your post to be an overreaction.
     
  20. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    chapters are as long or as short as they need to be. Think of a chapter like a scene in a play or a movie and they need to be how ever long you feel they need to be to convey that scene. I've read great novels where some chapters are as short as only 4 pages and some where chapters have been over 50 pages long.
     
  21. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    When I first started out, I made the mistake of plotting scene by scene. When I then tied the scenes together into chapters, those chapters were either extremely disjointed or ended up varying between way too short and should-be-its-own-novel (i.e. too long). Once I started plotting by chapter - working out the specifics of scenes only after I knew what the chapter that contained them was about - those issues disappeared immediately.

    Of course, that's just repeating what has been said already: a chapter for each major plot point seems fitting, around three scenes per chapter are the norm for me (basically three acts on a micro scale, though I don't believe in slavishly following the three-act-model for plotting - it's more of a revision thing really). Sometimes you can draw out a particularly important chapter to five scenes, sometimes you can (and to my knowledge, at least two published authors did), compress it to a single, particularly impact-strong sentence.

    Basically, a chapter is "a unit of story that is just long enough to advance the story, reveal something new, but not long enough to bore the reader away from reading the next one".
     
  22. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've had chapters be just a page or two and some of them are really freaking huge at 10K words about 35+ pages (split into subchapters usually, but still). I think it's basically that it has to be as long as it needs to be. No longer. No shorter.
     

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