1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Does chapter length matter? What is the average length?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mrieder79, Aug 31, 2013.

    I just got to a point that felt right for ending my fist chapter. It has 16k words in it. Too big? Too small? Irrelevant?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It depends, I guess. One thing reading from a Kindle gives you with a very visual ease is chapter length. At the bottom of the screen there's a wee bar with dots indicating the divisions of chapters and in the last two books I've read, the chapters where quite variable in length. Particularly in The Sparrow. The majority of the chapters were more or less even in length and then there was one stonking great one right in the middle that comprised a good quarter of the book.
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's the benefit of writing novels as opposed to screenplays or TV scripts. You can divide your story any way you want.

    I know my own chapters vary a great deal, when it comes to length, and I've never had any of my beta readers even mention the fact, let alone complain about it. Each chapter should probably function as a story-within-a-story, and each one will take as long as it takes.

    Don't let writing fascists start dictating chapter length, as well as everything else!
     
  4. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    I've seen chapters that were 30 pages and I've seen chapters that were 5. Whatever you think is best.
     
  5. A.L.Mitchell
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    A.L.Mitchell Active Member

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    I don't mind the length of a chapter. And also, it's the content not the length that matters to me.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with the others about the chapter length being as long or short as you want. That being said, 16k words is about a fifth of your average novel, so you may want to look at this from a marketing standpoint. Would you want to read a 16k word chapter? Would a publisher/agent? Just some things to think about.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  8. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Mine normally end up 1000-2000 words, but it depends on the book. Chapters are mostly a convenient place to split up the story so the reader can put it down and come back at a later time.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Dan Brown, in The Lost Symbol, has a chapter that's less than sixty words long. Sixty words. It's a little splotch of text in the middle of the page. The first draft of my novel consists of only eight chapters, averaging 9,000 to 11,000 words each. As I recall, Anthony Burgess' The Kingdom of the Wicked has only four chapters, and it's about 380 pages long in the hardcover edition.

    Chapter divisions are arbitrary. Don't lose sleep over how long your chapters are.

    Question for those of you who advocate for short chapters: Why do you advocate for short chapters? Are you only allowed to put the book down at the end of a chapter? Who made that rule? I violate that all the time.

    In my own work, chapter divisions indicate places where the story takes a leap, either in time or in space. That's all. I don't consider them marketing tools, and I'd hate to have to contrive a pseudo-climax every couple of pages just to keep people reading. I think that's offensive to the reader. This is one reason I don't like Dan Brown: he writes like he thinks I have no attention span; he has no respect for me. Arrgh.
     
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  10. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Interesting, I was just thinking about this exact thing. My current chapter one (for my new project) is at 1,364 words and I'm not done yet. I'm assuming I'm going to hit in the neighborhood of 2,500-3,000 words and I was thinking that was long. I guess all I can say is: divide the book how you see fit, but during editing, go over it and chop as much as you can. There was a time I had a 6,000+ word chapter and I cut it down to the neighborhood of 4,000 by cutting info dumps and otherwise useless info that could be spliced in later in the same book, or in my case other books (I write a series using the same MC and her life partner for all of them.)
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This.

    In my current project, my historical chapters average around 10,000 words, but my current day chapters average less than 5,000, and some as few as 2,500.
     
  12. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I don't always use chapters so readers can put the book down. I know some writers would say that you should keep the reader reading the entire time, and I agree with that generally. However, I also believe readers should have a bit of a breather now and then - give them a chance to take it all in!

    This is what I sometimes do with chapters: when something unexpected or unbelievable happens, I tend to start a new chapter. Not because I want the reader to put the book down (because I'm usually "cliff-hangery" with my chapters), but because I want the reader to take that unexpected information into their brains, to mull over it in their heads. I believe stopping at one page and switching to another is break enough for this, and so chapters are useful. Just my two cents. :)
     
  13. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    On another note. Be careful with the chopping I talked about, it can mess you up. In my current chapter, the MC is coming out of a coma and I thought taking 808 words to get to the point where she opens her eyes was way too much. Only the problem is, I started chopping and now the chapter makes no sense and practically back to square one and writers blocked. :(
     
  14. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I'm reading an Alex Cross book, sometimes the chapters are 2 pages sometimes 10

    It simply serves as a separate set piece in the story, so it should be as long as it needs to be to complete the set piece
     
  15. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    And sometimes clipping is just a futile effort. I've been chopping info dumps and useless lines all day and I'm still using 752 words to wake her up :D
     
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  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My recommendation would be to leave the editing for now and concentrate on moving forward with the piece. 752 words may be what the scene requires, but you really won't know that until you see it in context with the rest of the piece, or at least the immediately surrounding chapters. I sometimes think we obsess over word counts the way baseball teams obsess over pitch count. You have to put it in some kind of context.

    In my current project, I have on a couple of occasions turned off word count in WORD because I found myself editing as I wrote, and that was hurting the prose. I find I'm much better off getting the story down and worrying about word count later.
     
  17. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    It turned out all good in the end. The scene is down to 626 words and I think that's good enough. It flows better they way I did it now, anyway.
     
  18. S.R Kenrickson
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    S.R Kenrickson New Member

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    In the book I am writing right now, the first chapter is around 34,000 words, the second chapter is only 674 words. I make them as long and as short as I feel they need to be, in telling each stage of the story.
     
  19. Sandfire
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    Sandfire Member

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    Interesting.

    I tend to write the story as a solid block and go back and divide it into chapters later. If there is a scene that begs for a chapter break, I'll put it in while I'm writing, but it's not until I'm done with the first draft that I go back and figure out where all the chapters are. When I do, I usually make my chapters somewhere between 1500-3500 words.

    But in the end, I agree that chapter lengths can be all over the map. It's whatever is right for your book.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to say, that will most likely get your ms rejected by agents/publishers... or, at best, result in you being advised to pare down or divide that book-length chapter...
     
  21. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    The answer to this and most of the questions posed by new writers can be found by reading the works of popular authors.
    Length is not as important (that's what she said!) as how the words are used to create the fictional flow.
     
  22. Daniel Polyakov
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    Daniel Polyakov New Member

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    Sometimes very cool staff could be very small, and it's could be lot's of useless words and it will not make you feel anything. So. Everything depend. Just write it how you fill it! That's what I'm think.
     
  23. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    My experience with magazine articles are that they tend to be about chapter length. 6-12 pages. ...-ish. :) It's your book. Write it with no chapters or 50 chapters. It's up to you :)

    My chapters have no names.
     

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