1. Oak
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    Oak New Member

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    What do you think of very short chapters in a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Oak, Mar 9, 2013.

    I'm in the process of writing a novel. I mostly write straight through in a linear manner, sometimes edit. But I wondered if it's okay to write very short chapters, most of my chapters are 1 + 1/3 A4 pages. I like to write chapters in short and focus on one particular happening and then write another chapter. I do not want to stretch my brain and put in 'filler material' though. Is it okay if my chapters are short?
     
  2. maze
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    maze New Member

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    I don't know if a particular length should actually matter. I feel as though the content of the chapter is the important part. As long as the writing is good and the content does its job, you should not feel the need to stretch/"BS" it. If short and to the point is your thing, then go for it.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Chapters are counted by words, not pages...
    It's okay...chapters vary in length anyway. And who wants filler stuff in their chapters?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ask James Patterson.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no problem reading short chapters in books as long as the overall story doesn't end up choppy as a result. That would be my only concern. Generally chapters should be as long as they need to be. ;)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    they annoy the bleep outa me!

    i stopped reading patterson's books for that very reason... they seem to be a cheap way of plumping up a too-short book into what appears to be a 'normal' one due to all the white space between those 1-2 page chapters... and it chops up the reading flow something fierce...

    my best advice is to write decently-sized chapters, so the reader doesn't get as disgusted with your book as i am with all of jp's...
     
  7. Mot
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    Mot Member

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    I wouldn't worry about chapter size. As people have mentioned, content is more important.
     
  8. Oak
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    Oak New Member

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    I have not read Mr Patterson's books, but I definitely intend to write a full novel with 60k to 80k words, not just white space. But I looked him up and I kind of agree with his assessment that short chapters make it easier to read and visualize, I personally find short chapters more appealing but that might be because my attention span is probably shorter than some. I am concerned though that other readers may not like it, that's why I asked here for opinion.
     
  9. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Personally, I like a chapter to be of sufficient length to feel like it has substance, so probably something that takes around half an hour to read. If the 'scenes' need to be shorter that's fine. What I do in that situation is have shorter or short scenes within a larger chapter, with asterisks as separators for the scenes - *****
     
  10. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    for me, chapters that have very fast-pased events tend to be shorter so i can flip between one character and the next. otherwise, i aim to have 10 pages (microsoft word letter size)
     
  11. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    I feel that a chapter should be a collection of related scenes. Those scenes can be very short. A scene can stand by itself. But if every chapter is a single short scene unconnected to the rest, that's a bumpy ride.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect something else. Patterson's short chapters are practically a signature. When he "collaborates" with other writers, they benefit from his name, and I'm sure he gets a percentage of the royalties. Because the collaborations use his signature chapter structure, no one notice the other stylistic differences that make it clear who is really doing all the writing - stylistic difference that are very consistent among all the books by the same collaboration...
     
  13. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    ISTR in one of Tom Clancy's books that the chapters were fairly short, but then he was pulling together multiple scenes. The chapters in Executive Orders appear of an 'average/conventional' length, but are broken into several sections with a double line break (or more).

    Pace and intensity.
     
  14. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    At the moment I am reading 'The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry' and it has very short chapters. I find this very unsatisfying. I'd understand if it was a fast paced story but it isn't. It about a man walking from Devon to Berwick ( the length of England) and it tells us about his journey, the people he meets and gives flashbacks of his life.

    Are short chapters just another trend writers are going through?
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @cazann: I found the same thing in terms of chapter length, with Bear Grylls' autobiography "Blood, Sweat and Tears". I think it all depends on content. If there are many events to cover, perhaps only so much can fit in, or maybe whoever's writing it is not a creative writer but more of a "doer". But if the book is boring than short choppy chapters will make it doubly annoying, I imagine.
     
  16. rodereve
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    rodereve Member

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    shouldn't separate chapters like they're paragraphs. if chapters were split up like transitions between scenes in a soap drama, I'd find the book very boring. Just put a noticeable break in between


    And continue writing about a new event or change in thought in the same chapter. That usually works best. But its really up to you. If the flow of the novel doesn't feel broken by the constant breaks in chapters, then go for it. but you should get an outside opinion on that, usually one's own novel flows perfectly and makes sense 100%, while others may have different opinions
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like a chapter to be a mini-story-within-a-story, maybe longer than a simple 'scene.' It should be structured like a story, with a beginning, middle and end, and should move the overall novel forward, but beyond that? I really don't care how long or short chapters are, as long as their length doesn't seem contrived.

    Some people use chapter breaks every time they change point of view, and this makes sense to me.

    I think we should maybe quit worrying so much about 'convention' and just do what works in any given situation. But hey... what do I know? I'm only a reader, not a published author.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a 'full' novel from a new and unknown writer is generally 80-100k... 60 would be ok for YA, but adult readers usually want more book for their buck...

    swamp dog...
    what does ISTR mean?
     
  19. mikeinseattle
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    mikeinseattle Member

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    When I'm reading I like short chapters, if they fit naturally.

    OTOH I can say this: even if I am really DIGGING a book, and the chapter goes on too long, I begin to get antsy wondering how much longer until it will finish. Kindof like a scene that goes too long in a movie. Or waiting for a commercial to visit the bathroom when watching TV.

    In the book I am doing now, I plan to mix it up. But probably nothing more than ten pages per chapter. I tend to write what I wanna say then get out, in shorter chapters/scenes. But me, that's just the way I think. (a little ancient Spartan in me no doubt) :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
  20. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    ISTR = I seem to remember
     
  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone else. Not that big a deal...
     

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