1. Bright Shadow
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    Bright Shadow Member

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    Do chapters have to be of uniform size?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Bright Shadow, Jun 22, 2011.

    Well into my first attempt at a YA novel and I have run into a problem that may not be a problem. My chapters start out long, ranging from 5,000-4,300 words, and the later chapters towards the climax are like 3,000 words tops. Is that normal? I mean I have seen books like the Devinci Code that have really short chapters and books with really long chapters, but is it a rule or something that they should be about uniform in size?

    I could always just combine chapters, but I can't help but think that would feel kind of phony.
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    No. A mix of long and short chapters work well.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    they actually shouldn't be uniform... but chapters are not like sentences, which should be a 'mix of short and long'...

    too big a difference is just as 'bad' as having them all the same size...
     
  4. Suadade
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    Suadade Senior Member

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    Short answer to your question: no.

    As to how it should be done, that's a tougher question. But you could always let someone read your novel and ask them about it afterwards.
     
  5. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I agree with the other comments that there should be both but this is my thoughts on why both long and short chapters are good.
    I think the length of chapters parallels length of sentences. When writing a scene you may start with longer sentences as you tell about what is happening or where the story is taking place. When you get to a tension filled place in the story the sentence should naturally become shorter and more clipped. It adds tension and brings the reader to the edge of their seat sort of like scary music in a movie. It makes sense that ending chapters of a book would often be shorter than other chapters because that is the climax, the grand finale. It doesn't always work this way but it is a familiar trend in good writing.
     
  6. Leon Orwik
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    Leon Orwik New Member

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    Websters Dictionary definition of a chapter:
    1 : one of the main sections of a book

    That being said, the chapter size is irrelevant. A chapter is not an indication of length, but a division of the story. The book that helped me out with this the most was Moby Dick. There are some chapters that just keep going on and on and seem endless, but then it turns around and one of the chapters is only 3 sentences long.

    So as long as your chapters are separating different sections of the book and not merely divided up by length or word count, I think you should be fine.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You don't even have to have chapters, much less chapters of uniform size. Divide them as you see fit.
     
  8. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    It's not a bad thing to have chapters of varying lengths. I've read books that had one chapter go on for forever and the next chapter be only a page long.
     
  9. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapters shouldn't be of a uniform size, but, as Maia says, they shouldn't vary too much in length, at least not on a regular basis. In your situation, you're fine. It sounds like, although your chapters get smaller, they're of a fairly consistent length. Having a handful of chapters outside your constraints isn't going to affect your work in any way.

    Personal example: when writing novels in the past my chapters tend to be 3-4,000 words in length. In those books, there would be chapters of perhaps 10,000 words in length, because that's what the story needed. I've also written chapters of a page or two in length - perhaps 5-800 words. But, unless you're published and established, I wouldn't recommend varying chapter lengths too much.
     
  10. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think shorter chapters and paragraphs give a better sense of urgency than long chapters and paragraphs. Longer chapters lets the story run at a slow, casual pace, but when the action starts to pick up, I prefer shorter paragraphs and chapters.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    "Uniform" and fiction writing do not mix.

    Make them however long you want, if you decide to have them at all. The success of books like "House of Leaves" prove that you don't need rules.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's short, and then there's short!

    james patterson's 1-3 page chapters are a pain in the tush and i suspect are only meant to pad the page count of his too-short novels, thanks to all that blank space between them, since they're not even changing scenes most of the time and i can't see any good reason in most cases for going to a new chapter...
     
  13. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    In academic works it's recommended that the chapters have the same length (according to a book I read at university), but in lots of books (Harry Potter series sprung to my mind) the authors alternate long with short chapters. Divide your story as you see fit. I'm using untitled mini-chapters, each corresponding to a scene. Others might opt for long chapters across which span several scenes. There's really no rule to this, so do what you feel will improve the flow of the story.
     
  14. LostInFiction
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    LostInFiction Senior Member

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    This thread is completely relevant to me at the moment! My chapters vary in length - a lot so I was just researching the ideal word count of chapters in fiction novels. Anyway, it looks to me that variation is fine as long as the chapters feel the right length, do not distrupt the story and aids the pace the story requires so here's my plan; I'm going to have the majority of my chapters a reasonably similar length (within 500/750 words of each other) but if, after attempts at reaching this stage, it feels like one is cut too short, I'll (eventually) let it be longer, if one is dragging, I'll keep it short and my ending, which I already know needs to pack a punch, well, I'm going to let it be whatever size it turns out to be.
    Well that's my plan anyway. lol. I'll probably have to update this post! ;)
     
  15. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the other hand, longer chapters can allow for a build up in intensity at crucial action junctures. [/terrible sentence]

    It works both ways. I tend to opt for longer chapters at times of action, preferring to keep my dialogue scenes and chapters that bit shorter and to the point so I don't bore a reader. I'm like China Miéville in that respect. Or then there's the Stephen King/Dark Tower mini-chapters approach which work well with action scenes, skipping POVs quickly to get a frenetic feel.
     
  16. chatterbox
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    chatterbox Member

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    long and short chapters are an ordinary combination in any book
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    How long is a road?

    Hmm. What an odd question. How can you answer such an arbitrary question?

    You can't. How long is a road? As long as it needs to be to get you where you are going. And that's how long a chapter should be.
    PERIOD.
     

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