1. bc1
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    bc1 New Member

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    Chapter word limits??

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bc1, May 19, 2009.

    Hi everyone! I am brand new to writing forum. I have, for the last few days, been reading through tons of posts and threads and I can already tell that this site is going to be real helpful. I am beginning my first novel. I'm no writer and with much of my decisions in life, I woke up one day and said I want to write a book. Hummm? I said this too when I was 19 and decided I would join the military! I am happy to say that I lasted 5 years and met my wonderful husband. Anyone can do anything that they put their minds to.

    Anyway, the reason I am here is to learn. So for my first of many questions I am sure, is there a word limit to chapters? I know how I want my second chapter to start off but I don't want to cut the first chapter too short. Help please?!?!

    By the way I am working on getting my Bachelors in English Lit so I am not totally blind to the world of writing!
     
  2. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    A chapter can be any length you want it to be. Anywhere from two words to having no chapter breaks in the book at all.
     
  3. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Exactly.

    Writing your story will give you a beginning point, because there may be a kind of natural flow to your storyline. At the same time, read bunches of novels. That'll give you a really good idea what the effects are (on a reader) of length and what kinds of stories read better in longer or shorter segments. By the time you've written your novel and read tons of others, your writing will probably have improved. Then, down the road, an agent may offer up some wise words of wisdom about chapter size (among other things) as it relates to your particular work (think "marketability").
     
  4. Primitive
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    Primitive Member

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    The most important thing is to tell your story the best you can. Forget chapter sizes and word limits and just write. You can worry about them after it is complete. If you worry about limitations now you'll only hinder your ability to write the story the best you can.

    Just remember when it is complete, you should be looking at a word count around 80,000-120,000 (depending on genre).

    Editing will fix out everything when your done anyway! Good luck with it.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that usually when people ask these questions, they are worrying much more than they need to. The answer to your question has already been given. Since it could have given you a whole lot to think about that might make you worry even more, I'll simply say this: relax and enjoy the process. If it isn't fun, you might as well not be doing it at all.
     
  6. bc1
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    bc1 New Member

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    Thanks all! Makes sense. I find that writing is very fun and it has come more naturally to me than I thought. I do read a lot of books too. My husband seems to think that I read too much but I disagree, I think that reading only helps me and builds my knowledge and vocabulary.

    I am going to take all of your advice and just have fun with it and stop worrying!:)
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Have you tried searching for other threads containing "Chapter" in the title? This has been asked MANY times.
     
  8. bc1
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    bc1 New Member

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    No I haven't. I don't think I need to because many people have answered my question already. Thank you though!
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If you do a lot of reading, you will notice different authors have different chapter lengths. Sometimes a chapter is a short paragraph and sometimes it is a 15,000 word story. Some novels only have 6 chapters; some have 50.

    I divide my chapters into mini stories. In each chapter my MC(s) has a goal. So it has a beginning, middle, and ending. Sometimes I end the chapter with a cliff hanger.

    Anyway. I design my chapters this way because I enjoy reading novels that do the same, such as Swan Song by Robert McCammon.

    Keep in mind the psychology of length. A short novel 40k words with 3 chapters will feel longer than a 60k novel with 30 chapters. The same way a page with one long paragraph will feel longer than two pages with short paragraphs.
     
  10. JGraham
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    JGraham Senior Member

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    I always just begin writing and continue with the chapter or section until i feel i have conveyed the message intended in that particular part. Dont force it and cram whatever you can in a chapter. Like the others said it does not matter because all books are different, that is the great thing about writing. You can do whatever you want.
     
  11. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    bc1,

    Congratulations on deciding to write a book!

    My view on writing a first draft in chapter sections is, don't do it. Don't start your manuscript with "Chapter 1," just start with the first paragraph and keep writing. If you want to put in a blank page where, during your first draft, you feel you might want a chapter break.

    Later when you start your first edit, ask yourself if the end of each section makes you (the reader) want to keep going to the next section to find out more. If it doesn't feel like you were left with a new problem to tackle in the next chapter, then you either have to add or take something away, or perhaps take the first several pages of the next section and add them to the end of the previous one.

    I personally do not write any chapters during a first draft. I insert a page break into the document so I know where I wanted to end.

    I have never heard of a rule saying each chapter must be such and such a length. Most publishers will have an opinion on it if they choose to buy your book, which is why you work with an editor at the publishing house. Some genre publishers have cookie cutter book requirements, so writing your story without defined chapters will help with these types of publishers.

    There is also the matter of changing point of view characters, some authors do this once per chapter, and sometimes more. I have read many books that follow just one character through an entire book, and others that switch back and forth during the chapter. My personal favorites are first person POV or up-close third person. I prefer books that change character POV only once in a chapter, so if I am following Jane for the first chapter, but have to follow Jack for the part of the story, it should be done at the beginning of the next chapter--whether in 1st or 3rd person POV.

    From what I have learned, the end of each paragraph should motivate the reader to read the next, the end of each chapter should motivate the reader to read the next, and the end of each book in a series should end with the reader craving to read the next one immediately!

    To me as a writer, I want to aim for clean writing and a good story that makes the reader flip the pages as fast as they can read them. That's all we can do...our best. However, our best is always getting better.

    Jenn
     
  12. bc1
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    bc1 New Member

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    Jen
    Thanks for that. Makes perfect sense and because it is my first book I know I am thinking too much into it. I need to write my book the way I see it in my head and just stop worrying.
     

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