1. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Novel / Novella Writing: Chapter Length. Does Size Matter? ;)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by S S, Sep 26, 2014.

    I usually run the course of the chapter's events in about 6 averagely sized pages (400 words per page). Although I tend to keep description on the lesser side.

    How long do you like to make your chapters, if you use them at all?

    Does it matter? Personally, I remember reading Goosebumps as a kid and being very frustrated by the common one paged chapter in the series.
     
  2. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    For me it depends on the chapter. Some of my chapters are almost 5,000 words long while others are barely 1,000. Though I have an average of about 2,500-3,000 words

    I like to think of my chapters as individual stories, kind of like the episodes of a television show, they have their opening, their storyline and then a cliff hanger/solution at the end. You need to write what feels good for your story, if you think your chapter should end, end it, if you think it needs to continue, continue it, or make a cliff hanger and split it (that's what I do if my chapters start getting too large).

    Amanda
     
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  3. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    I think mine are quite a bit shorter because I plan on ending the story after 50,000 words, but still want to fit everything in, so I condense everything. Where I think a character's thought process could be drawn out and explained more, I tend to simply leave to the reader to fill in and because the novel will be short (~ 50,000 words) I don't recap events later on, I just assume the reader remembers them.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It doesn't matter how long or short your chapters are. They should be as long as they need to be (vague answer, I know). Ultimately, it's your choice. As a reader, I don't have a particular preference.
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I read, this is the ideal length range for a chapter. It fulfills the purpose of a chapter because it is short enough to fit into my attention span and long enough that after I finish it, I feel like I made measurable progress.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
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  6. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    It's not how big it is, but how you use it.

    Stephen King's It has a three-line chapter.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    One of the chapters in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is only five words:
     
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  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @thirdwind
    I want to read that now.

    As other's said, length doesn't really matter unless ALL your chapters are less than a page... doing something odd then.
    Mine are usually 2000-5000 words, depending on the scene.
     
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  9. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Chapters are just a way to organize your writing. Do you always mix together things that do not belong together just because you can when you are organizing things in your house? Chapters are the same way. Make them as long or short as necessary to better structure your story.

    My chapters tend to be episodic by nature, so they can get really long; however, I can just as easily break them down into shorter chapters if I wanted to organize them in that way.
     
  10. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    and how many times you use it
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My main novel involves a pair of characters on a long journey. It seems natural to me to make chapter breaks each time they arrive somewhere something interesting happens. That means that sometimes a couple of hundred miles separate these locations. I have only eight chapters because of this structure, but each one of them is between 7,000 and 11,000 words long in first draft form. They'll probably be longer in the second draft, though there might only be six of them - I plan to eliminate a couple of these "stops" and I haven't decided whether I'll replace them. I'm expecting the final version will be around 100,000 words, so six chapters will average over 16,500 words. Maybe I'll refer to them as "parts" and label the individual scenes in them as chapters.
     
  12. Chiv
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    Chiv Active Member

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    I probably average around 3000 words per chapter. However I have a couple of chapters that are under 1000, and a few that go over 4000.
     
  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I recommend that. And give titles to the parts (but not for the chapters).
     
  14. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with a chapter should be as long as it needs to be sort of thinking. I believe that keeping a chapter focused on a particular topic or issue is helpful when reading it and makes it easier to edit later since there isn't a mixture of things going on, but if it is really short maybe two topics can be mixed without any confusion. But then I read minstrel's post and am rethinking this whole issue, he is way more advanced a writer than I will every be so there must be a reason he likes such long chapters.
     
  15. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same goes for Misery. The first chapter is hardly three lines. Some of the chapters were literally about a woman from Africa, lasting 1-3 lines. Very silly structure, but it worked out quite well.
     
  16. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    Length of chapters depends on many factors. There is no golden rule. You can find novels with 50-page chapters and others with some chapters that are only a few lines long. The length depends on what you are hoping to accomplish. Length of chapters can pace your novel. If you're writing an action story and want a fast pace, then go with short chapters. If you're writing a historical novel and went to delve into the time period, you'll probably want to write longer chapters.
     
  17. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Chapters are breaks. Breaks don't always happen at the same time. Some of my chapters are VERY short. Some are very long. They serve the purpose of the story, and nothing more.

    THOUGH, readers will stop at the end of a chapter, so making sure you have a good hook so they 'come back next time' is important.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it may depend on genre. I've had editors in my genre (romance) ask me to rework my chapters to make them a more consistent 2-3000 words.
     
  19. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    Chapters that are really short or really long are good tools in writing.
    Regular chapters should in my opinion be about the same size.
     
  20. cynthia_1968
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    cynthia_1968 Active Member

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    I don't care about the length of a chapter; some are short, and some are rather long. The endgame chapter of my novel (Hotel of the death - the chosen one) has a word count of 11,565 words. However, I also have chapters with 2,468 words or shorter...
     

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