1. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Word count for each chapter?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by pamedria, Dec 3, 2016.

    My chapters have been between 3000 and 5000 words on average. I know that some chapters can be a mere word. But generally speaking, does that sound about right for a novel or do you aim higher?
     
  2. Shreddinger

    Shreddinger New Member

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    Hm, I'd say, a chapter is a scene, like in a movie or a play. In my opinion a chapter should be as long as you need to describe what's going on in this particular scene. Key parts of the story with huge internal conflicts or fights will be longer and can be separated into 2 or more chapters, while "fillers" (where the characters just travel from A to B) can be summarized or left out entirely. I wouldn't be afraid, as long as I'm over 1k words per chapter, but that depends on personal taste, I think. If the chapters get too short for you, you should just think : What is actually happening now and how can I put that together into one scene/chapter?
     
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  3. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    As the nature of my novel is between the north and south of a country, a lot of the chapters are separated like that, with a couple scenes in each. Then, with characters splitting for their own journeys, it obviously branches off to more chapters more scene based. Is that fine or do u think the north/south chapters of 5k each should be seperated for scenes? Suppose it doesn't matter too much at the writing stage..?
     
  4. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Personally, 2-4 pages per scene (writing program I use gets about 375 words per page) so I 750-1500 words per scene (unless they are one of my turning point scenes, in that case they will be longer). So if I have, say, 4 scenes in a chapter my chapter will be anywhere from 1500 words - 6000 words.
     
  5. CEMO

    CEMO Member

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    It all depends who your target audience is too, as well as your style. Generally chapters should get shorter as your target audience gets younger (shorter attention span). I write YA and my chapters usually range from 2000 - 3000 words per chapter.
     
  6. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My chapters tend to be pretty long. They're about 8000 to 11,000 words each. There are generally several scenes per chapter. I have two main characters, and I write close third person. When I change which character I'm close to, I start a new chapter.
     
  7. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    Setting any kind of arbitrary parameter into which to fit your work is bound to affect its quality. The above mentioned (Shreddinger) about the utility of the chapter would be a good rule of thumb. However, I do bridle at the use of "scene" in describing chapters. Another thing to compare a chapter to could be an Act in a play. Acts are comprised of scenes. So, using jumping from scene to scene as your chapter break point might not be such an accurate thing to do.

    I prefer to view it in terms of phases of activity. If the activity is "John gets fired from his job" I may start John off getting ready for work (scene 1), in his car on the commute (scene 2), at the coffee pot where he hears something is going down (scene3), in the boss's office where the deed is done, (scene 4).

    I feel anyone using hard, fast word counts isn't really writing. They're typing. Stories you're telling don't cooperate so well that they fit in a neat matrix. Sometimes, they're unruly and don't want to fit in anything at all.
     
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  8. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    I feel it would depend on your writing style. Is it long-winded? Is it terse?
    I can say I prefer when a chapter length is determined by what is happening. If forces are gathering and moving towards a battlefield, short chapters can add speed and the feeling of movement, if done correctly. There could be short chapters of when different forces meet and continue on the march together. Will those forces all agree? Will there be jostling for positions? Are there old animosities that may play out on the road to war? Short chapters can add conflict and help explain differences between the differing groups.
    Does a group that lives on tundra look down of a group living in a forest? Are the forest dwellers considered weak due to having to live in cover? If those two groups converge on the way to war; which leader would lead the way? Who would decide? The two leaders? Or the soldiers?
     
  9. Tebrim

    Tebrim Member

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    Hmmm I feel like with a chapter rather than a specific word length I think about if it covers what it's suppose to?
    So... the chapter is as long as it needs to be to cover said event, theme or experience (whatever) I want to convey in this section. I remember in 'A Darker Shade of Magic' there were quite a few long chapters followed by a chapter that was half a page. Kind of threw me for a loop haha.
     
  10. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    What @Denegroth said.
     
  11. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I tend to group several scenes together in a chapter so long as they are linked in time. That is, I tend to use chapter breaks to telescope time. I also use chapter breaks to shift from 3rd person to 1st or vice versa, and chapter breaks are necessary for shifting between 1st person POVs. I don't limit myself to specific word counts for chapters. I've found that trying to conform chapters to pre-set lengths inhibits the writing.
     
  12. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Thank you to everyone for your replies. It's helped :)
     
  13. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    In my Doctor Who fanfic, the first 10 chapters were about 3000 to 5000 words too, but then Chapter 11 hit 10,000 words and Chapter 12 hit 16,000 :D

    My Urban Fantasy chapters have been a lot shorter: so far more consistently 1500 to 4500 words each.

    Then again, my Doctor Who chapters started more consistently too ;)
     

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