1. FallenShandeh
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    FallenShandeh Member

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    what's your average word count per chapter?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FallenShandeh, Jul 4, 2014.

    Mine vary depending on the story. The project I just finished was anywhere between 1300 and 2000 words per chapter. Short chapters because I'm spectacularly lazy and like to use chapter breaks as scene breaks or POV breaks. The entire story ended up being fairly short, only 31,700 words.

    My current fanfiction is so far averaging around 2600-2700 words per chapter, which is a big improvement, but still relatively short. What this means, however, is that if I write 20 chapters for this story and keep all the chapters around this length, I will approximately double my word count for the completed story. And I intend to write more than 20 chapters. This one will be significantly longer, I think, if I can finish it.

    So how many words per chapter do YOU average?
     
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  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I generally aim for 3000 words in a chapter. Sometimes it feels right at 2700 or 3400, but I need a good reason for anything less than 2000 or over 4000. I'll still have them, if it feels right.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My current draft is 110K words, for an average of 5,500 words per chapter. However, that doesn't mean much, since some of the chapters are nearly 10K words while others are 1K.
     
  4. FallenShandeh
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    FallenShandeh Member

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    I'm still struggling to kick the habit of wanting to get everything done by 2000 words. School... anything I wrote for school had to be under 2000 words. I'm honestly quite proud of myself for churning out two 2600+ word chapters in as many days, and I still have plenty of writing time for the third but whether I actually start on it tonight or leave it for tomorrow I'm not sure yet.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Mine vary wildly. Each has a beginning, middle and end, and they take whatever time they take. My longest in 11,220 words. My shortest is 1,273 words. Most fall somewhere in the middle of that. Between 5,000 and 7,000 is my average.

    Each chapter develops a certain aspect of my story, and that's why they exist. Some aspects take more time than others. I feel it's more important for each section to achieve its story purpose than it is to keep to a certain rigid length.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My novel's chapters range from 2000 to 4000 words, but sometimes go as low as 800 words and up to 8000 words.
     
  7. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try to have everything around 2500 words. I don't cry if I am under, and I don't if I'm above. But I try to keep it around there, because I hate reading and then there's a 3 page chapter then a 50 page chapter afterwards.
     
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  8. FallenShandeh
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    FallenShandeh Member

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    Me too, dude. Me too.
     
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  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine are typically somewhere between 3K and 5K each, with minimal outliers. The outliers are usually on the lower end when they do come up. But then, when revising the draft, I might change things around and add additional chapter breaks if necessary, as sometimes I can do a little too much in a single chapter.
     
  10. Veo
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    Veo Member

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    3000 to 4000.
     
  11. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    In my work in progress the chapters run between 2.5K and 4.5K words. My shortest chapter is 1968 words and my longest chapter is 5939 words (but I think I'm going to end up splitting that one because it covers two rather different things).

    I like it when the chapters work out to be semi-uniform in length. I have this idea that it makes it easier on the reader knowing what he or she is getting into when starting a chapter. I do make use of "scene breaks" in my chapter... abrupt shifts of POV indicated with a special symbol between paragraphs. However, I think I overuse such breaks and I've been working at removing as many of them as I reasonably can.

    Overall I think I worry about chapter length way more than I should.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    a little over 3,000
    I do have a whopper of a chapter in my old ms - I calculated prior to writing it that it would be long, but it wound up being over 300 pages ( a novel within a novel )
     
  13. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    Usually mine land between 3,000- 5,000 words.

    It does kind of depend on the novel as well. But in general I stick to this ballpark.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My chapters tend to be rather long. Just about all of them fall in the range of 8,000 to 11,000 words. There's no particular reason for that. They almost always have several scenes in them, and I could easily split most of them up into shorter chapters. But it's the way I think about the work. When I embark on a chapter, I think "This chapter will take me up to such-and-such a point in the story," but ideas keep hitting me as I write and it takes longer than I think to get to where I want to end the chapter. As John Steinbeck put it, "Everything has pups." :)
     
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  15. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually write like that, but through multiple perspectives throughout my 7 characters. One scene I had was about 7500 words (probably the longest I had a scene), but it was spread through three chapters and three characters. For me, it's easier to read and write it when I mix it up. People on forums or wherever complain about the dreaded "wall of text", and that's the same for writing. When I read books on my phone (Kindle app), it'll say how long is left in the chapter, and when there's some 20 minutes or more, I groan. Having the chapter break is nice to give a small relief point.
     
  16. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    3000 words per chapter, plus or minus as much as a thousand depending on the needs of the story. All my chapters fit within these parameters.
     
  17. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    My chapters on average are consistently 8K+ words. Sometimes I purposely aim for that high when I feel like I am missing something, and sometimes, it just turns out that way. There are also cases where I have to purposely break a chapter up, else it would run 15K+ easy. I do not write short chapters that are only a few hundred words long, and I would rather find a way to incorporate such chapters into the one before or after it.

    My chapters tend to be episodic in nature, so I usually do not like to end a chapter until events are complete. This is probably the reason for my long chapters.
     
  18. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    About 3000 to 4500 words. I've gone as high as 5500, but only because I couldn't cut anything without hurting the pace of the story.
     
  19. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just read a book where only two chapters are under 11,000 words and the longest is 44,000 words. There are 20 chapters.

    I wish the author had your sense of what is a "long chapter". I cannot imagine how I could keep that much content in a single chapter straight in my mind when writing it, let alone reading it.

    I like what Victor Hugo did with Les Misérables by dividing it into volumes, then books, then chapters. It really makes it so much easier to digest than it could have been. And of course it does not hurt that there is one chapter for each day of the year. :D
     
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  20. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine are averaging out at 1,850 words per chapter, but I know I have one that runs a little less than 800. Not sure what the longest one is. Over 2,500, I'd guess.

    I break them up if I feel they're getting too long. If I ever get any beta readers they can tell me if I'm full of it, but when I'm rereading what I have so far I notice the shorter chapters keep me going. "They're short! Just one more, just one more!"

    There are a couple places where I broke a longer chapter into two to keep the word count in each down, and the chapter break seems forced. Looking at the word counts others have noted in this thread, maybe I'll put them back together.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  21. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    My current novel averages out at 3,700 words per chapter; ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 words in general. I've never really cared for my chapter length, unless it seems like the chapter is a never-ending story tunnel which needs to shut up at some time, or if it's so short it actually doesn't do anything. I think of chapters as mini storylines within a larger story--within each chapter, there is a goal at outset, some conflict, some resolution. I don't know how true that is, but that's what I've noticed in some of the books I have enjoyed, that no matter how long or short the chapter, it must be a complete entity in itself. I guess the rules are less stringent during the climax and at its resolution, because chapters may be shorter to accommodate for swift changes, or longer to fully encompass the juicy details. But that's how I split my chapters, in general. Also, I tend to "chapterize" my story as I go, so nothing's ever certain. It's only after I conclude one chapter that I know what part of the conflict appears in the next, and so on.
     
  22. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    My general rule is write your chapter so it fulfills what you need it to do before a break...continue the story, give us some juicy details, and then end us wanting more...

    Average is a tricky word, since most of us don't consider the three 'averages' that can exist. Mean, Median, and Mode. Mode is the most commonly occurring length (which hopefully is done by sets of 100's, or even 1000's), and may not be useful here. Taking all of the chapters you've written in that way, you might find the most common is...

    2,000, or 2,100, or something like that.

    Mean is much simpler. Add up all of your words. Divide by all of your chapters. You can see the problem with this though as illustrated by the Bill Gates issue. Let's say we get a group of people together for a party...your friends and family. We want to know the average income of this group. Some people make twenty thousand, some make eighty thousand, but it averages to roughly forty thousand.

    Then Bill Gates walks in.

    Our MEAN jumped up to a monstrously large number. If you've ever written a chapter that is 29,000 words, you would wreck mean as a useful measure.

    Median is a great measure, and one we should use more often for many things in life. This takes all of your chapters by length, and then finds the MIDDLE length. So half of your chapters will be over that number, and half will be under that number.

    So why so many words about average here? Because my mean chapter is about 4,000 words, but is thrown off by a monster. My mode chapter is 2,800, and my median is roughly 1,700. I don't aim for a certain number, I just aim for a certain method for my POV switches. I keep all of them to their own chapter. So I end up with a lot of chapters, but my book is easy to read in shorter bits. Some chapters are much larger, but obviously, something important must be going on in them.

    My general rule is write your chapter so it fulfills what you need it to do before a break...continue the story, give us some juicy details, and then end us wanting more...
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014
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  23. Catrin Lewis
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    And thank you for reminding me of all that before I go back to substitute teach in the fall.
     

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