1. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Does Length Matter?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Irish87, Jun 7, 2009.

    I suppose the title of the post was done more so out of humor than anything else, but it does encapsulate my issue. You see, I've been writing a novel for about two months now and I'm currently on chapter eighteen (hooray). Each chapter is roughly four to five thousand words. I know, I know, I should probably put more into it, but honestly I haven't begun revising yet and I'm not one of those people who can honestly write a four hundred thousand word novel where every brother, nephew, cousin, aunt, and slightly related half uncle of sorts has his own story. Also, I tend to skip the boring parts. Do you really want to read about the main character eating a damned bologna sandwich? I don't.

    With all of that said, however, I am beginning to get shorter and shorter in my chapter length. I've gone from 4.5k as average to 4k as being long. Currently, my eighteenth chapter is only two thousand words long and I'm running out of things to write about. I want to continue the story, but it truly feels as though there should be a stop in the telling of it then and there. Essentially, in the current chapter, the main character meets a fairly important person and some details about the antagonist are learned. The next step, literally, is the beginning of the end. If I just start going into the confrontation then I'll be making a real moron out of myself... I think.

    I think I might just be over thinking all of this.

    I suppose my question in the end is as simple as: how long should each chapter be? And yes, yes, I know, it's all up to me and if I wanted to a chapter could be no longer than forty words. That, however, does not make me feel better. I require validation!... sorry. I've still got a good five more chapters, if not more, but I'm afraid if I cut it short more often as I'm doing on chapter eighteen then I'll end up with a fairly short and pathetic ending. I mean this is the end of it all, for all the reader and Mr. Evans knows. Hell, I could choose to blow the entire world up with an atomic bomb strapped to a clearly deranged lamb.

    Yeah, I do think I am over thinking all of this. Nonetheless, I would very much like the opinions of others. And no, there aren't actually deranged lamb in my story, though I would imagine they would be delicious!
     
  2. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I find that I go for each chapter at least 4 to 5 pages long.
    Which is roughly only about two thousand words or so.
    But to each his own, it's your own decision.
    But have you ever thought of splitting your giant chapters into smaller chapters.
    You may have more chapters then you think.
     
  3. Zaylee
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    Zaylee New Member

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    Hmm... well, I tend to vary in length with each chapter. Some are only 1k, others can be 5k. I suppose it all comes down to personal preference and or what happens within the chapter itself. You should do what feels right for you x

    Sorry if this wasn't much help.
     
  4. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    hmmm.

    I agree with the others 2k is about right for me, but the lengthiest i've gone is 8k in a chapter. Anywhere between that seems about right to me.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Sorry to be obvious, but it really is up to your discretion how long the chapters are...

    Readers (especially us writing readers) will know when you're just padding, so never ever do it. Just write everything you need to in the chapter and leave it at that. I suspect the obsession with length may be a male thing, but its time to put it aside and celebrate, erm, chapters, of all shapes and sizes...
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I would concern myself with the length of the book, not the chapters. . . Different authors have different styles. I've read books with 40-page chapters and 4-page chapters within the same volume. . . And it's also quite common for chapters to go down in size towards the end as the story speeds along at a faster clip. In the beginning there's a lot more to say. . . introducing characters, places and, in some cases, the world itself. . .

    Personally, I like to see a good variety. Uniform chapters suggest that the author is more concerned about format and word count than telling the story. . . And it's just boring.

    So I wouldn't say you've got a problem. Sounds like you're doing fine, and maybe even better than some. "Padding" towards the end of a book can be especially annoying when all you really want to know is what happens next. You don't want to do that.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The length of the chapter depends on the genre and readership. In YA fiction the chapters are fairly short, 1-2K, for mystery and whodunnits also they can be fairly short. Both these types of novels tend to end chapters with a cliffhanger. For more in-depth, slowly-paced writing I've noticed up to 5-6K. Also, not every chapter has to be the same length (again, depends a bit on genre).

    This is just a personal opinion and I'm sure there are many exceptions, but it seems that the general trend is for shorter chapters; modern pace of life/short attention span or something, maybe. Longer chapters demand longer uninterruped time for reading. I think it's good to keep chapters under 4K and let the reader have a break from time to time.
     
  8. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anywhere between two thousand and eight thousand is what I do, and there's no problems in doing in. As long as you don't make a new chapter in the middle of something (unless you want a cliff-hanger), you'll be fine.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are no rules. Relax, and do what works for what you need. 5k words is more than long enough. Say when it's published, it's about 400 words per page. means that your chapters will be 10-15 pages each. Sure, some books have chapters that over over 30 pages each, but that's what works for them. If 10 pages works for you, do it. If 2 pages works for you, do it. If a paragraph is all you need for a certain chapter, that's all you need.
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter length matters less to me than it used to. I do want it to be at least 1000 words, and I am going to try to length some of the future ones in my current novel.

    However, I'm of the belief that as long as it adds up to the proper word count, what does it matter how many chapters are used to get there? (Within reason of course.)
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Irish87,

    I am missing the connection between chapter length and the novel having a good ending.

    You need enough detail and information to tell the story and what's happening and enough said so that the reader can fill in some of the blanks. By now they should know the characters (or the main ones). So, if there is less detail that's okay. Many novels end with an increased pace as the climax is reached.

    As I read your post, if your first 18 chapters average 4000 words, and your last five average 2000 words, then you'll have an 82,000 word novel. There's nothing wrong with that length.

    Write and include what you need to. In revising/fixing up your first draft you'll smooth things out. Some will be cut, bits will be added. 2000 word chapters work as well as 4500 word chapters. It's the quality and storytelling that they hold that counts.

    Terry
     
  12. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Each chapter should leave the reader dying the turn the page and read the next chapter. A chapter can be just one scene, two scenes, or three scenes, depending on the conflict and resolution/decisions that your characters are making. Each resolution/decision at the end of each scene should lead to conflict in the next scenes.

    How you split them up is irrelevant. If there is 500 words in a chapter of 5k words in a chapter really doesn't matter unless the genre you are writing in has publisher guidelines for length of chapters. As some of have pointed out different genres have different requirements and some have none what-so-ever.

    I personally just write. I don't put chapter breaks in during the first draft. For me that interrupts my flow of the story while I am first writing it. I leave the chapter break decision for the re-write. That way as I am changing stuff in the re-write I don't have to go through and change chapter breaks, I can just put them in where I feel they should naturally go.

    A chapter break for me is a pause in the story, a change in the scene, or time line. So when I am reading other's writings I see how they put their breaks in and think about how that would work in my own stories if I like it, or how I would do it differently if I were writing their story.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    We have had a lot of threads about chapter length. You might want to look them up.
     
  14. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not the length, but what you do with it that matters. (lawl).

    I mean that quite seriously, though - It's no good writing an immensely long novel if it's all boring, irrelevent gap-filling text. Some of the best novels in the world are very short.

    I don't feel that I get any more from a long novel than I would if they just cut the crap and told a fantastic story, making it about half the length that it was going to be.

    otherwise, what you end up with, is a 'Trunk Novel' - nothing special, nothing memorable, and nothing worth displaying on the bookshelf.

    Just make each word count and you can't go wrong.

    To kill a mocking bird, Carrie, The hellbound heart - All renowned for their excellence in their genre, all have been made into films, and all are still read and sold today. Not because of the amount of words, but for their outstanding narrative and style.

    Each of those books are very small compared to most novels - I'd much rather write one of those. It's something to think about.
     
  15. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    If I were you I'd end the book, as it sounds like you are at the final part of it. Then go back and fill in the missing details you talk about. It maybe the details inspire your next chapters or length of....
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as suggested above, stop agonizing over the length of the chapters and just concentrate on writing [and finishing!] a marketable novel...

    if agents you submit it to say you have a problem with chapter length, then is when you should think about dealing with it, not now...
     
  17. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'd have to agree with what everyone else is saying. The length doesn't matter unless an agent has a problem with it. I don't think I've ever read any book of substantial value that had even chapter lengths.

    Personally what I do is to do a chapter-by-chapter outline and have one main event in that chapter and when it's concluded, move on to the next. If it is shorter or longer than the previous one, then it's probably because there's either less or more information that needs to be revealed (slowly) to the reader.

    ~Lynn
     

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