1. Norm
    Offline

    Norm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Michigan

    Length Standards

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Norm, Feb 15, 2010.

    Is there any kind of rules or standards when it comes to how many words or pages a chapter in your novel is on average? My current project is getting chapters on average 3-4 word processor pages long. I think this is good for my teenager target audience since I remember when I was a teenager I didn't enjoy reading long chapters, but rather shorter ones so it was easy to take a break from reading whenever I wanted to. Unfortunately, I don't know what kind of standards there are for these kinds of things. Do publishers see relatively short chapters as a sign of amateurism? How many words should a chapter contain on average?

    Actually, I wanted to know what's a relatively accurate conversion between pages in a word processing program to actual book pages? Are they pretty much 1:1?
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Forget page counts. Publishers' submission guidelines are in terms of word counts, not pages. Also, you will be submitting in manuscript format, which is double-spaced in (typically) a 12 point Courier or Courier New font, so the page count will be very different from the typeset pages in the printed work.
     
  3. Norm
    Offline

    Norm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Michigan
    My default font is Times New Roman. Should i change it to Courier to get a better feel of what the printed form could look like?
     
  4. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    No. Courier New is a mono-spaced type (versus proportionate spacing) that is recommended for manuscripts because it is easier to edit. An actual book will use other fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial. If you want a good idea about word count per page in finished books, count the words on a couple full pages in your favorite paperback and figure out the average. I've usually found the average to be 240 to 300 words per page, depending on the size of the pages and the font size, not that the number of pages means anything to a potential publisher. As Cogito says, they are concerned about total word count and proper formatting for submission (Courier, double-spaced).
     
  5. Norm
    Offline

    Norm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Michigan
    Alright, so I should double-space any submissions the same way it's expected on a college essay (unless stated otherwise) even though that's not how it should appear if printed?

    Yeah I know that's better for an editor to get at it with a pen to make notes and corrections...

    Oh well, I imagine I'm getting way ahead of myself seeing as how I don't even have a manuscript that's anywhere near completion...


    EDIT: Just did some rough number crunching and figure I have anywhere from 18-25 print pages worth of material currently and that's divided among four chapters. My new question now is does anyone think a range of 4-10 pages is a good length for chapters considering my target audience ~14-22years.
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Different fonts faces and sizes could be used for different editions (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback) wity different page dimensions.

    Why are you concerned with how it will look in final print? Trust the publisher's layout and typesetting staff to fo their jobs well.
     
  7. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Norm,

    Chapter length depends on the book and the writer. There isn't a 'wrong' length or a 'right' length that anyone here could point, especially based on the information in your post.

    Write what works for you. If you think shorter chapters will work, go with it. Chapter length, in the end, isn't a real problem for an editor to work with an author on. It's the quality of the story that will, in the end, count.

    If it still does bother or distract you, check out books similar to yours (target age group, topic, etc.) and you can even narrow it more by publisher(s) you'd like to submit to first (or have an agent--should you get one--submit to). If you're chapter length is close to what is published, I guess that could help you move forward. But really, I think you'll find a broad range. I am not indicating that YA novels will be 150 pages long with only three chapters, or 150 pages long with 137 chapters, and is the way to go.

    Just write the novel and then worry about the minor stuff. Type in whatever font works best for you to read and edit. When you're ready to submit to agents/publishers, check out their guidelines and see what they request. If there isn't a specific preference, what others have indicated: Courier or Times Roman, 12 pt font, double-spaced (lines), 1 inch margins (with paragraph orpan turned off), header with title/name and page number on the top, one side of the page only (if you send a printed copy), left justified, etc.

    Good luck!

    Terry
     
  8. Norm
    Offline

    Norm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Michigan
    Alright, I thought that I was responsible for setting out a layout before sending it out, but it seems that the publisher takes care of most things regarding that. (Which is good, because I don't know much about how to set a book up.)

    I have one last question though, I am familiar with the specifications you listed except this one: "paragraph orphan turned off" What is this exactly? After this, I'll go away for a while until my story is closer to being submittable (long way off currently).
     
  9. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Widows and orphans are printer/editing terms for isolated words or phrases. Here is an easy explanation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widows_and_orphans

    You really do not have to be concerned about them in your manuscript. They are the responsibility of the editor to adjust when setting up the final layout for the printer. Some word processing programs will auto-correct for widows and orphans by compressing space between letters (kerning) in previous sentences to remove the lone word or phrase. Kerning:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerning

    If you have not activated such a feature in most common word processors, you're probably okay. You can check for it very easily...type a sentence or short paragraph that ends with a single word on the top of the next page. If your program does not correct it, then you do not have this as an active feature. If it does alter the spacing in previous sentences, then look for the command that controls this feature and deactivate it.
     
  10. iolair
    Offline

    iolair Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    265
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Exeter, UK
    As for the chapter lengths, go with whatever your style of writing demands. Some great books I've read:

    Terry Pratchett's Discworld books - NO chapter breaks at all

    The Book Thief - many chapters of around three to five pages

    Glass Books of the Dream Eaters - IIRC only seven chapters in total, each of around probably 70-80 pages.

    There are no hard and fast rules, and go with whatever breaks gives your story the best flow and suspense.
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    To expand on what Dean (NaCl) said, the reason you turn off paragraph orphan control is that manuscript pages are sparse enough as it is. If you leave orphan control turned on, many manuscript pages will have wasted blank space at the bottom, as the software tries to keep paragraphs all on one page.
     
  12. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    To add to Cogito's last statement, editors/those that do the layout for a novel can use the number of pages in a manuscript to estimate the total pages a book will be. Word count is an estimate, but, say there is a dialogue heavy manuscript, it will take more pages to tell than one that isn't dialogue heavy. This happens simply because every new character speaking means a new line/new paragraph, often with blank white space (at the end of the line and with the indent for the new paragraph). Thus, dialogue can mean fewer words per line but more lines, thus more page usage.

    Beyond that, it helps with the estimation if each page is filled (every line standard). With the orphan control turned on, some pages will have 1 or even two fewer lines at the bottom. This adds to the complexity of trying to estimate.

    I am not indicating that one should worry about how much dialogue is used. Each writer's style of telling a story and each story itself determines that.

    Terry
     
  13. Neo
    Offline

    Neo Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    1
    I just can't get anything I write to any length at all. Everything feels too fast and just as I think I've written something good, I re-read it and it's only two pages long. An entire story. I'm trying to focus on short stories to hone my craft. Bugger knows how I'll ever write a novel!

    Are there any programs which allow you to write, just like a word processor, but which shows you a layout similar to what the document would look like in book form (i.e., it looks like an open book)?
     
  14. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    I suppose you could set up the page margins and font type/size/spacing to emulate that of a book's page setup in just about any word processor.

    Terry
     
  15. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    Wow. People actually do this. I thought it was another of those things that schools taught that weren't necessarily true.

    That seems right to me, that's about as long as one of mine is, and that's for a similar audience.
     
  16. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    That's easy, but there is no benefit in doing it. Here's how with MS Word:

    1) Under the "File" menu, open "Page Setup". Click on the "Paper" tab and set your paper size to Width of 4.5" and Height of 7.5". Now you have a page that is physically the same size as many paperback books.

    2) Click on "Margins" and set .6" on Top and .5" on all other sides. In this same window, you will see a selection titled "Pages". Look at the drop-down menu under Pages and click on "Book Fold". Now the program will show you side by side pages as if you opened a book.

    3) Now that you have a physical page that is about the same size and margins as the typical paperback book, you need to set the Font size, Font style and justification. Start with Times New Roman or Arial and set the Font size to 10. As you insert your text, use left justification.

    There you go. These three simple steps give you a basic "look" at how your story will appear in print. Even with this setup, though, you have not matched the finer adjustments (kerning) that a printer or editor will make in such areas as correcting for Widows and Orphans.

    If you want to really go overboard, you can set your justification to Full and you can add automatic page numbering and odd/even page headers.

    Now that you've looked at your story in a paperback-like page, what good did it accomplish? You can't send it to a editor/agent in this form. You can't even build a book in this format, because it doesn't include "bleed" for trimming and binding. Although, it might be fun to do this just once. Have fun!
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Yes. In manuscript format, an extra (double spaced) blank line between paragraphs eats up too much page real estate. Therefore the half inch first line indent for each paragraph is important for finding paragraph boundaries.

    Word DOES support margin and gutter allowances needed for trimming and binding. You can actually do some pretty sophisticated layout, but differences between screen fonts and printer fonts can make the layout shift between planning and printing. Adobe Acrobat is better suited for page-by-page layout that won't change at print time.
     
  18. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    why would you want to?... there's no good reason for it... and no benefit to you in doing so... if you want to be a professional writer, you need to write like one... and that means typing your ms the way the pros do... as a ms, not as a book...
     

Share This Page