1. Rapaz
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    Rapaz Member

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    Chapter size

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rapaz, Feb 2, 2012.

    In your opinion, how long should an ideal chapter be?

    Is 1500 words too short?

    Discuss and if possible explain your point of view.
     
  2. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is one of those things that despite what people are going to say, is totally subjective. I have read books with chapters longer than most novellas and I've read books with chapters only one paragraph long. It really depends on the overall pace and structure of your novel.

    My chapters run anywhere from 2000 to 4000 words. But that's just me.
     
  3. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Mine are 4000 - 5000 words long in general. I find that is about long enough to get out a decent chunk of story, but then you have to ask yourself, what constitutes a chapter unit? Where do you divide them? Is it by length, subject, scene, or just when you feel it's an appropriate place for the reader to break for a cup of tea?

    I usually divide it into chapters by plot stages - when I've advanced one plot to a different point, or maybe advanced two plots to the same point in the story timeline, I end the chapter. I don't consciously keep track of my word count and think that I have to wrap up the chapter because it's approaching a word limit, but I do try to keep them a consistent length, within 1000 words either side. But that's not to say you have to do the same. Some people like short chapters, especially in a fast paced novel, because it seemingly helps them read quicker - if you are the sort of reader who looks ahead to the next chapter break to see how many pages til you can go to bed, you're more likely to finish a chapter if it's only short. You're also more likely to think 'oh, what the hell, i'll read another - it's only 5 pages'.

    There is a psychological element to it too :)
     
  4. ozymandias
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    ozymandias Member

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    The ideal chapter should be as long as it needs to be to portray the scene. My chapters range from 2500 to 5000 words, averaging at around 4000, but it's really up to you.
     
  5. Xatyrn
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    Xatyrn Member

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    Hmm, it really doesn't matter. James Patterson has chapters (at least in the very few books of his I've read) that are quite short, yet other authors have them being quite lengthy, and some just mix it up because they like to break their story off at certain points.
    People won't judge you on the chapter sizes unless they're TOO frequent or intrude at poor places; infrequency probably isn't too much of a problem, but people do like resting points now and then. :3
     
  6. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    I personally think you can go as short as you want, even only one word if it fits the story and adds some special meaning or whatever but, i don't think you can go as long as you want. as a reader, i like when a chapter ends, it gives me that weird feeling that i have no idea how to describe,
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Chapters should be just long enough to contain the number of words in them, and no longer.

    :)
     
  8. quincarroll
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    quincarroll Member

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    A chapter to me, tells a part of my story.

    If the part of the story that I want to tell is one paragraph long, and it fits in with the rest of the book, then that's how long it will be.

    Sometimes I will type and type and type, and when I am finished telling that part of my story, the chapter will end.

    Each chapter is a little story in itself. All of the little stories will make up the overall story.
     
  9. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Oh noes, I has made my latest chapter too long! It is 6800 words, when I usually try to keep it within 1000 either side of 5000!!

    That's it. I'm deleting the last two scenes. Or maybe just all the 'e's ;)
     
  10. Cycle
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    Cycle New Member

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    I dont think that size really matters.
    Its more to do with providing a memorable experience.
     
  11. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    How long is a piece of string?


    I've some stories where chapters never exceed 3k in length and others where they are all 7k+. They were perfect for these stories but there is no overall ideal length.
     
  12. krtr
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    krtr Member

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    Ideally, I try to put each 'chapter' to 10,000 words. I aim for it and that way even if I come up short I'm still swimming in a comfortable 8000 word range.

    I always hit the 10k mark before even thinking of re-reading what I've written or adding minor edits.
     
  13. 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 you're the only one who can determine that... don't go by what anyone else has done... let your chapters tell you when to start a new one...
     
  14. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your editor or publisher may well end up cutting or combining them anyway, so just do it how you think is right. It's my personal preference to keep all my chapters a similar length, and I seem to do it automatically from years of writing papers, but not everyone does this, so I'm sure it's not important.
     
  15. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. :)
     
  16. Rapaz
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    Rapaz Member

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    Yeah, I guess it really is up to the writer.
     
  17. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    If 1500 is your average, then yeah that's a little on the short side and could be an indicator that you're not describing certain things thouroughly enough. But that's not necessarily the case. I would have to read the story to say if that were so.

    As others have said, if shorter chapters work for you and your story, then go for it. :)
     
  18. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I know a published author who uses chapters of around 700 - 1000 words in length. It all depends on the progression within the chapter.
     
  19. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    That's just what my ex used to say! :D
     
  20. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Hehehe. ;)

    Anyway, yeah the size isn't really too important. My chapters range in size from 7 pages to 20. It all depends on the content. The more relaxed chapters will generally be longer, as they might stretch languidly over long periods of time, or characters might take a while to get things done. More action packed scenes will generally have shorter chapters. I'd break chapters up by plot rather than size. So if something dramatic happens to make a good cliffhanger then you can end a chapter there for instance.
     

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