1. struggler
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    struggler Member

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    Is too many chapters a bad thing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by struggler, May 30, 2013.

    So my novel is around 85,000 words long and has 65 chapters. Most of those chapters are only 3-4 pages long. Each of those chapters told a part of the story I wanted to tell before moving onto the next part. However, I think such a large number of chapters isn't a good thing. What are your opinions on it? Would a publisher look down on such a thing? Is it too distracting for readers? I guess I'll just have to join a lot of those chapters together to get the number down.

    Also, what are peoples opinions on the amount of chapters in a book? Should it be between a certain range?
     
  2. Juju Bagdasarian
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    Juju Bagdasarian Member

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    your book is a big so i dont find it bad to have many chapters my book that is at 50.000 has 40 chapters now and i find it really good to have more it allows me to refresh the things tha go around from another charachters prespective Arthur Clark has around 50 to 55 chapters in each book of time odyssey and someof those dont even fill a whole page plus i believe people enjoy to change quickly chapteras it gives a feeling that they are progressing in the story.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    James Patterson has page-long chapters, and he's a huge success. Mind you, I personally find it incredibly irritating - it forces you to pause far too often before you can even get into the story - but that's just a personal thing.

    To determine whether you have too many chapters, first you must ask yourself, "What are chapters for?" It's to break down the book into manageable bites, I think - little stepping stones that take you through the story from A-Z. It's also a bit of a breather for the reader. But you must consider this: every chapter is an opportunity for the reader to put down your book. The more chapter breaks you have, the more opportunities there are for the reader to pause, take a break, and perhaps never pick it up again. (of course, if you write well enough, chapter breaks won't matter. If you write terribly, it won't matter whether you have breaks or not cus the reader won't finish it - but chapter breaks is just one more factor)

    Another thing to ask may be, why are there so many breaks? Some writers like to wrap up that part of the story or the scene by the end of the chapter, so it's nicely rounded and finished, before the next chapter starts. Again, in light of seeing chapter breaks as an opportunity for the reader to put down the book, a nice wrap-up does nothing to entice the reader back. Every end of the chapter then, there should be a cliff hanger.

    So now look at your chapters - is there a cliff-hanger at the end of every one, some motivation for the reader to read on, some reason why they "just have to read another chapter, just one more chapter, just one, even though it's 3am and I have work at 8 in the morning"?

    Every chapter should push the plot forward - if there's a chapter that doesn't move the story forward, you may want to consider merging that or deleting it altogether. I don't mind little background developments and dialogues and background stories, I mean things that happen that move the main plot along.
     
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  4. J♥Star
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    J♥Star Member

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    I can't comment on how publishers look at chapter lengths, because I haven't been published, and I'm not a publisher. However,I would rather have short chapters compared to long ones. I don't really like reading books with chapters that are 15-20+ pages. I can't really think of an exact reason why i prefer short chapters, but I do. As far as making your chapters in a "certain range," I would just try to finish whatever you want to be said in a specific chapter and move on. I could be wrong, but I can't picture my writing idols looking at a chapter and trying to add or delete words to make it fit a certain criteria.
     
  5. TheLeonard112
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    TheLeonard112 Sūpākūru Senpai

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    I think 10 Chapters at most is good enough. Though, could someone give me an opinion, I am making a book but each Chapter is like six pages and I feel weird about it.
     
  6. Mauthos
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    Mauthos Member

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    I tend to read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy which average between 100,000 to 150,000 words. The majority of these books tend to be between 35 and 40 chapters long. However I am sure this is probably conincidence as I do not think a publisher would insist on a set amount of chapters in order to publish a book as long as the necessisty for the chapter breaks are essential to the story and not just used as breaks between scenes which can be covered by a single line break within a chapter.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no right/wrong or good/bad number of chapters... only what works for each novel, each writer...

    patterson's too-short chapters bug me as a reader for the reason mckk finds them a bother and annoy me as a book buyer, because it pads a too-short story, making a scanty ms appear to be book-length due to all the blank space between 2-3 page chapters...

    don't annoy or cheat your readers that way... if your chapters are that short, i'd have to assume either you don't have enough going on in your scenes, or you're shifting time/locale/character pov too often, possibly not knowing you can do a lot of that with line breaks instead of going to a new chapter every time...
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with all of the above!
     
  9. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    As a reader . . .

    Yes, yes, and yes!

    I HATE picking up a book and reading 3 page chapters.
     
  10. AnnaU93
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    AnnaU93 New Member

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    I feel like the most important thing would have to be quality over quantity and I always say this.
    There are so many success stories out there that we know today that have huge books and fans all over them waiting to buy the next copy. If the story seems complete with sixty five chapters then so be it. I wouldn't ever cut down the material just to satisfy the "printing press" so to speak. If the ideas are flowing in a way that makes sense to you then just leave it and continue on with your work.
    Also, try to criticize yourself in a way of " would I enjoy this novel if I was gifted this ? " and just take it on from there.
    Good luck!
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    By definition, the answer to your question is yes. Otherwise, it wouls simpy be "many", not "too many."

    But the real question is whether there is such a thing as too many chapters. Again, the answer is yes, because clearly a 100,000 word novel with one word per chapter would clearly be too many.

    What eludes definition is exactly how many chapters per novel is too many, or how many words per chapter (on average) is too few. You can, in fact, have a novel with exactly one chapter, although it may be difficult to publish unless you are already well-established as an author.

    If your book feels choppy because the chapter breaks come too frequently, that is how you know your chapters are too short.
     
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  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    For a hundred k word novel, what would be the acceptable range for min and max number of chapters? By acceptable, I mean, you don't need to be well established first. Somewhere between 5 and 30?
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My chapters average between 7,000 and 11,000 words. I like long chapters.

    I don't like reading short chapters. As someone said above, it seems like they're short just to pad out the number of pages in the book. Also, what does it say about your scenes when they go by in the blink of an eye? It feels to me like there's no depth, and none of the power that comes from depth, if the chapters are only two or three pages long.

    Short chapters make me feel like the story is built of cardboard instead of good, solid oak.
     
  14. Caesari
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    Too long of chapters are indigestible and daunting, while too short of chapters pose as fillers and gimmicks to make your work appear longer than needed. The key is to find a balance- the way you have written your story, does it flow?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    ...and the same holds true with how many are too few.

    Any number I could come up with would be pulled from a dark brown place, and I'd have to scrub my hands clean.
     
  16. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    At the rate I'm going I'll end up with a similar pattern. My chapters are coming in at about 1100 words long. The only difference is I can't really claim it's intentional. I have tendency to underwrite my scenes, and find it difficult to draw them out in an interesting and justified manner. That's why mine are so short.

    For now I'm happy to continue at this rate, giving each chapter its own file, as it makes the whole process easier for me. But when it comes to the rewrites I shall have a fair about of additional material to add.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    James Patterson writes in very short chapters. I haven't noticed if anyone else does, but frankly, I don't think it matters. I think what matters more is that your chapter structure match your genre, voice and pacing.

    EDIT:
    And most importantly, the scene/sequel content.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
  18. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I believe that a "chapter" should be about 15 minutes of reading time, but it should always preserve the integrity of the scene within.
     
  19. Stephanie Norman
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    Stephanie Norman New Member

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    I am convinced that there is not determined number of pages in the chapter. As a writer you should feel when you want to give a pause for your reader to stop and think about read. As for me, a new chapter is the way to lead the reader to some new events, characters or feelings. Writer should decide whether his/her book will be read in one breath or with breaks to comprehend all read before.
     
  20. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    I personally like shorter chapters. Usually my only reading time is right before I go to sleep. So easily getting to a stopping point works well for me. And often it does make me do the 'one more chapter' thing. But that is just my personal opinion and reason, your mileage may vary.
     
  21. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The most important thing is to end a chapter at the right time rather than because you've reached X number of pages. It should make the reader want to delve straight into the next chapter. Mine are pretty variable - my shortest is 427 words and my longest is 4,200, though the majority are around 2,000. When I read it on my Kindle, I never find myself thinking "there should be a new chapter by now, this has gone on too long". I'm too absorbed in the story.

    If you're concerned about the length, I would say err on the side of long rather than short. Short chapters can be distracting and interrupt the flow of the novel.
     
  22. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Out of curiosity, I had to check my WIP for chapter lenght and found that my shortest chapters were 2 pages (there were a couple of them) and the longest was 14 pages. I don't think I've ever written a chapter longer than, say, 20 pages. Most of the chapters in this novel were between 6-11 pages, with emphasis on 9 and 11 pages. It has 48 chapter, for a total of 83K. I really never think of chapter lenght when I write, and hardly even when editing. I just try to make sure they end in a way that make the readers want to turn the page. :)
     
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  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I usually write long chapters. They average about 10,000 words. I don't see that as a problem. I put several scenes in each chapter, generally. Chapter breaks for me come when the characters change location drastically (for some reason, I tend to write stories that involve journeys).

    So I don't have too many chapters. My novel so far has eight chapters, but it looks like it's going to be at least nine. I'm working on what I call a "prologue" but will obviously turn into chapter 1.
     
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