1. TheDarkWriter
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    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    How many words should be in a chapter for a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TheDarkWriter, Aug 3, 2012.

    I'm trying to write at least twenty pages for each chapter but so far I don't know how many words should be in a chapter. What is the minimum and or maximum number of words for each chapter in a novel?
     
  2. Pellshek
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    Pellshek New Member

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    You first need some conception of how long the entire novel will be. Let's say it's a thriller and you're aiming for 75,000 words.

    You then need to divide those 75,000 words into your 3 Acts*, perhaps in a ratio of 25%/55%/20%. That gives you c. 19,000/41,000/15,000 words per Act.

    So if you want c. 20 pages per chapter, at c.350 words per Word page, that's c.7,000 words per chapter, meaning you'll have maybe 3 chapters in Act 1, 6 in Act 2 and 2 in Act 3, or something like that. Your chapters should be fairly consistent in length throughout.

    Obviously the specific numbers change depending on your planned overall word count.



    * Or into whatever structure you are using for your novel.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    There is no set word length for chapters. Finish the chapter when the point you wanted to get across has been done. They can vary from short to long through out the novel, it doesn't actually need to be consistent. But personally, I prefer short chapters as they allow the reader to not get tired out from reading them :3 What's a short chapter though? Well, that's subjective. But to me it's about 2,000 - 5,000 words. And please, please do not count in pages. Count in words only. :DD

    I hope that helped!
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Minimum, 1. Maximum, entire content of novel.
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Like Youniquee said: there is no hard, fast rule of chapter length. Most of mine in the novel I finished are about 7 pages typed, maybe 1.1-1.4k in length. A chapter, to me works like a movie scene, when it makes sense for a beat (a term in play writing and script writing that means pause) then I'll end a chapter-even in mid scene. As for have a 1-2-3 act...throw that out the window or you'll tie yourself to a stone that can hold you back.

    What genre are you writing? Each one has a different word count number. YA=50-60k, thriller around 80k, most other novels are 80-120k in length. However, as an unplublished writer, your first novel should be in the 80-100k range. You don't want to go over, and if it's too small, they won't look at it. So, try to find the happy medium.
     
  6. Reptile Hazard
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    Reptile Hazard Member

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    As many as it takes you to finish the particular subject the chapter is about.

    I've seen chapters of no longer than a few hundred words. These are usually letters and the like, but the point is the same.
     
  7. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    It's usually more helpful to think in terms of where the chapter breaks go, rather than the length of the chapters. They have to go in the right place, to help both the pacing and to avoid breaking the flow. The best way to get the hang of it is through practice, but also by paying attention when reading to where the author has put chapter breaks. It doesn't really matter if a chapter is one word or one hundred thousand, as long as the break is in the right place. Eventually you'll find it becomes like breathing, and it just comes naturally as part of your writing.

    (And, as others have pointed out, you should learn to measure your writing in words. It's the standard in writing, as pages is dependent on margin size, font, font size, etc.)
     
  8. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    When it comes to chapters, I really don't think in word counts at all. Instead, I think in terms of value shifts.

    What do I mean by this? Well, as my protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters make their ways through the story, they are in a constant state of flux. In one chapter, they may start in a stable place, and then a reversal throws them into a quandary. In another chapter, they may overcome the immediate quandary, only to discover a game-changing truth that spins them into another direction or places them into a new conflict.

    Whenever these reversals, shifts, and changes occur, they often lend themselves very nicely to a chapter break. Not always--but they are often very natural places to end the chapter and start the next one.

    As far as length is concerned, my chapters are all over the board--no consistency whatsoever. Some are extremely short, a few are fairly long, and more fall somewhere in between.
     
  9. Juganhut
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    Juganhut Banned

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    Like others have said, it is based off of where you think is a good ending point. When an idea is finished and a new one is about to begin. Or a nice little cliff hanger to break it up.

    I like small chapters personally. It makes it feel like progress, and a good stoppig point. Chapters that are too long can bore people as well, you just have to find a good place to break it up.
     

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