1. Shahar
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    Shahar Member

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    Question about the length of a chapter

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Shahar, Jun 12, 2011.

    I'm sure I saw some one asking it here before, I just cant seem to find that topic.
    Anyway, Im at the begining of a fantasy/fiction story I'm currently writing. It holds a very fast pace, and so far most of the chapters (if I can even call them that) end up being less than a page. Are there right and wrong here?
     
  2. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapters can be as long or short as you want. Some books don't even have chapters at all. But if you think your chapters are too small, have you considered ending each chapter with a major cliffhanger? That way you can combine several chapters into one with lots of small cliffhangers, but you leave the big ones for the end of the chapters.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    less than a page seems pretty far from workable to me... even james patterson's run 2-3 pages and he's probably the shortest chapter writer among successful authors...

    your problem may be that you think every scene should be a new chapter and you're not writing long enough scenes... first, you can have more than one scene per chapter and secondly, you can and most likely should be writing more lengthy scenes... you may not be setting the scenes well enough and/or not providing enough narrative/action...
     
  4. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    If the story demands it then you shouldn't worry about such things.
    But even considering that a less than a page seems quite short :D
     
  5. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I think having short chapters makes the story choppier.
     
  6. MJLowson
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    MJLowson Member

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    Depends on how you tell the story, one of my projects is being told from the different POV of several characters, hence each character is a chapter - usually though I go between 700-1500 words.
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh. I've seen published works with chapters a page in length. But that really is a very rare instance. How long does a chapter need to be?

    "How long is a piece of string?"
     
  8. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Me personally, I like a mix of long and short chapters. Too many short chapters is choppy and I feel like there isn't enough going on...like somehow cheated.
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    There is no rule on chapters. The shortest chapter I have ever read was only a page long and it was in Moby Dick. I think it was the Cabin Boy or was it the Ports chapter; I can't remember.

    I find my chapters average between 1500 to 3000 words. I just end the chapter when it is ready to be ended. When there is a, "change" in venue, story line or an ending to an event. If I see a chapter sneaking up to the 3000 mark, I may go back and read it to see if it needs to be broken apart.

    Just do what your heart tells you to do. You will know when the chapter is done.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Try reading Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol." One of his chapters (108) is less than sixty words long. Not sixty sentences - sixty WORDS. I've written sentences that are four times that length.

    Brown varies his chapter lengths hugely. Some are fractions of a page, and some are many pages. And his books are bestsellers. Don't get hung up on chapter length. Write in a way that works for your story.
     
  11. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I have read that book and I don't remember the chapter. I am going back right now to find it because you got my curiosity.
     
  12. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Oh yes, chapter 7. I forgot about that one.
     
  13. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd like to say a chapter should be as long as it needs to be, but if a book consists mainly of one page long chapters, I'm pretty sure I'd be really annoyed by it. Just as annoying as reading a book without chapters (which I'm currently doing, and it's annoying me enough to consider putting it down even though the story is awesome).
     
  14. Shahar
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    Shahar Member

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    Thanks everybody. I got the answer I needed :)
     
  15. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    What happens if one has this problem?

    :p
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One does something about it. :p
     
  17. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    *mutters: smartass* lol

    No, really :p
     
  18. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    How can you develop a scene in that short space of time? It will be way too choppy because you'd always have to be jumping in and out... I see scenes as told like jokes or magic tricks - same thing, really. You set them up, use the set up to reveal something new or to move things along, and then end it with a twist or revelation or surprise to round it off. Even when it ends on a lower tone, the last words should ideally have some sort of significant weighting. Even in a fast-paced thing, you'd still have settings and plot twists aplenty which should require a closer look than basically what must only be a few lines of dialogue or a few brief actions before you're wrapping up again. And if there is only the middle part of the scene - no opening or closing writing - then it's going to be a huge trial to read.
     
  19. Shahar
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    Shahar Member

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    I believe I got these short chapters becaouse I took each as a scene with a purpose. And somtimes, in order to stimulate the wanted emotion, I feel like I have to drop alot of lines that seem like they over-shadow my main point in the scene, as do somtimes it feels like I need to add.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no one here can help you correct the problem unless you post a couple of your too-short chapters so we can see what you're referring to...
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    (but not here - you'll have to meet the requirements first, and then post in the Writing Workshop)
     

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