1. The Codex
    Offline

    The Codex Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    UK

    Minor concern: How many words a chapter should have?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The Codex, Apr 16, 2013.

    I've been wondering how many words a chapter of a 300-400 page novel should have?

    Help! Help!

    Research suggests 5000 words but to me seems to short... I just want facts tied with opinions from experienced novelists on here.
     
  2. Thornesque
    Offline

    Thornesque Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Messages:
    456
    Likes Received:
    71
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    There's really not guidelines for how long an individual chapter should be. You should write until you feel a natural break in the story, and end the chapter there. Or, hell, don't worry about chapters right now, and break it up later. That's how it works best for some people.
     
  3. The Codex
    Offline

    The Codex Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    UK
    I must be having novel panics again, so there's really no limit unless there's the next step into the story? Thank goddess, I realised the chapter I'm on have far too many words than the previous one and still has many words to go; at least another 10'000...
     
  4. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    As many (or few) as necessary. There's not really a correct answer here, and it depends on the writer. Also, each chapter doesn't need to have the same amount (or about the same amount) of words.
     
  5. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Make it as long as it needs to be. There is no definite answer here. I have seen chapters that have been less than a page, and chapters that have spanned more than forty pages. It all depends on what you want to convey with the chapter.
     
  6. Caesari
    Offline

    Caesari Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    I recall a book I read where there were 79 chapters and it was somewhere between 250-300 pages... some chapters were as short as a couple paragraphs. While I'd recommend writing a little longer than that, there is no set number... for example, another book I read had 45 page chapters.
     
  7. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    its really up to you, you dont even need to put chapters in if you dont want to, im not, im breaking mine up with something like:

    *****************************​

    in between each section
     
  8. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Scott Lynch did something interesting in his book The Lies of Lock Lamora. Each chapter would revolve around a particular plotline, but he would switch viewpoints within the chapters by creating sub chapters. As an example:



    Obviously the chapters were a lot more fleshed out than this, but you get the general idea.
     
  9. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Agreed.
     
  10. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    As many as it takes. Your scene, or scenes, could be finished in 500 words or it could take 5k, so it's up to you the author. Although, sometimes you do need to split things into smaller chapters. I wrote a battle scene in my rough draft that was 30+ pages typed and approaching 9-10k so I needed to split it up. Why? Because if I took the 250 words per page average for a pulp paperback, then that one chapter would've been 40 pages. That's a bit much for what I was writing because it didn't leave a place where the reader could put the book down.

    Which brings me to a second point. While the chapters need to be as long as necessary, keep your reader in mind too. A 40 page chapter in a book is very tiring to read through...especially if you're reading late at night because there's no place to choose where to set the book down. So, in some ways, it's better to split up large chapters into smaller ones, and there'll be times you'll need to combine two smaller ones.

    Hopefully, I didn't confuse you too much.
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    there's no 'should'!

    successful writers have preferences that range from james patterson's 2-3 page shorties, to clancy and michener's many-page longies...

    your chapters should be as long as they need to be and/or as long as you want them to be... and they don't have to be all the same length...
     
  12. Keitsumah
    Offline

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Messages:
    3,279
    Likes Received:
    285
    Location:
    Nebraska
    for me, I just write each chapter set to what events occur, and it is as long or as short as it needs to be. Some of my chapters are barely over 1000 words, and others are around 6000. it really doesn't matter.
     
  13. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    How long is a road?
     
  14. NumberOneChin
    Offline

    NumberOneChin New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2012
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    0
    As others have said, there is no limit, and you should move on to the next chapter only when the plot calls for it. But I will refer you to Captain Kate's point - many readers will pick up a book at night time, and in their drowsy state they're not likely to be able to complete a forty-page chapter, particularly if there are no breaks contained within.

    My current novel, though only written for my work colleagues, varies in chapter length (as is the case for pretty much every novel). After chapter seventeen I had written 77,430 words, which, including the prologue, equates to roughly 4,300 words a chapter. But chapter four is 6,931 words (before editing), so, as above, it all depends on when the plot calls for a break.

    I certainly wouldn't recommend trying to stick to an exact word length for every chapter. You'd almost definitely ruin the flow of the story, as you attempt to cram in as much - or as little - description or dialogue, just to fit your sadistic requirement.
     
  15. SlimeWizard
    Offline

    SlimeWizard New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2013
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    I tend to be easily distracted when reading and often go at chapters or even paragraphs at a time so I can take it in without my mind wandering, hence I prefer books with shorter chapters of 1000-2000 words. But for a longer novel, I think the chapters should certainly be bigger than this yet still short enough to make the story feel progressive and engaging. I'd guess at anything between 6,000 and 9,000 words.
     
  16. JohnnyElsewhere
    Offline

    JohnnyElsewhere Member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2013
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    5
    I've been trying to keep my chapters uniform; but now that I read this thread, i guess quality is more important than quantity.

    If you want to have your chapters a particular length, there might be some instances where certain things aren't needed for the story to progress.

    My suggestion is to break each chapter up into particular scenes. If not, just be sure to let the reader know of a break in each scene if you're not so keen on having chapters. I guess it's just a matter of preference.
     
  17. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    line breaks are standard practice within chapters... they're needed to show scene/time/location/character changes...
     

Share This Page