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  • Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Jekyll&Hyde at 10:02 on 27 January 2006
    This has always bothered me. How long should a chapter be? How many chapters are standard?

    I donít know whether to go for the super-short page-turner type chapters, or the not too long, or the massively long type of chapters.

    Itís something thatís been bugging me for quite a while. What do people suggest/recommend?

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Cotopaxi at 16:19 on 27 January 2006

    My chapters range in length from 5,000 words to 20,000 (the latter of which I know if far tooooo long!) I just write until I come to a natural break and then call that the end of the chapter! But I am probably doing it all wrong!
    When I'm writing I tend to find that a normal chapter is about 7,000 words.
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by EmmaD at 17:31 on 27 January 2006
    I structure my plan very much round chapters, since I'm knitting more than one narrative together, so I know roughly what's due to be in each one by the time I get to it, but how long they come out is up to them. TMOL is somewhere between 10,000 and 14,000 per chapter, as I remember. The 10 chapters are in a larger structure of 4 parts: 2 chapters in Pt 1, and 3 in each of the others,

    Chapter breaks are either about ending an episode, or shifting to another part of the forest, or building tension by putting a break exactly where the reader doesn't want one (though that can be a bit of a cheap trick). I think you should put the breaks where you can exploit their possibilities to the best effect; the length is neither here nor there.



    As I remember, Austen has as many as 30-40 chapters, and of course was originally published in three volumes, by way of a larger structure. Having said that length isn't the point (why not 20,000?) I do know that occasionally, when I've become aware that a chapter is coming short, I've had a look back, and found that it is rather under-written and skeletal (have you seen the thread on the length of the whole thing) as I'm an adder rather than a cutter, so I go back and do some adding!
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Jekyll&Hyde at 17:55 on 27 January 2006
    They're BIG chapters, Cotopaxi.

    I've got my heart set on the 2,000 words mark right about now. Not too short, not too long.

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Grinder at 18:51 on 27 January 2006
    I aim for about 3500 to 5000 words which is a good 10 to 14 pages I think. An ideal length for reading in the bath before the water starts to get cold, or just before you turn out the light.

    And, any longer than that and youíll have to split them up to post on WW or else people will moan. I experimented with splitting my chapters up into 1000 to 2000 word sections and definitely got more comments posted. Just a thought.

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Ava at 20:14 on 27 January 2006
    I ended up uploading two chapters at a time here because they were so short but then they seem to get longer and longer and i end up splitting them. But like Cotopaxi said, it's whatever feels natural. It's like the end of a song, the break away from verse one to the chorus should feel appropriate. I wouldnt let length dictate how long one chapter should be- it'll get in the way of what you really want to write, include, etc.

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Jekyll&Hyde at 01:50 on 28 January 2006
    Hmmmm... it's a bit of a fix. I can't make my mind up again on the ideal length

    I'm sure I'll overcome it.

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Dee at 07:08 on 28 January 2006
    Ste, I donít think there is such a thing as an ideal length. The story, the action, the characters, should dictate when a chapter ends Ė not an arbitrary word count.


  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Jekyll&Hyde at 07:40 on 28 January 2006
    That's what I keep reading Dee, in how-to books, but I do like the idea of chapters being the exact length of each other. Odd, huh?

  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by EmmaD at 10:14 on 28 January 2006
    When I divided TMOL up into Parts, one of the people in my MPhil workshop got really bothered that because there were 11 chapters, the parts couldn't all be the same length! She went on and on about it: she just couldn't bear the thought that the maths wasn't tidy. Never mind that the divisions clarified the structure beautifully!



    Did I say 10 chapters earlier? It's scary what I've forgotten about TMOL
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Neonblast at 12:40 on 14 November 2011
    personally i use a set page amount, i know i do it wrongly, but it helps me keep track of my targets.

    i like to write fiction a lot and most of the chapters i do are about 10-14 pages of A5 with between 200 and 250 words per page (about 11 a line) with an average of 80,000 words throughout the entire novel.
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Manusha at 14:23 on 14 November 2011
    I asked a similar thing when the length of 7K for a chapter I wrote was questioned. One of the answers I received was that you might also want to have a look at other novels in the same genre as yours. Children's fiction for instance would probably be a lot shorter than say adult fantasy. It might give you an idea of what readers of the genre expect.
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Ben Yezir at 15:42 on 14 November 2011
    Indeed the market you are writing for is important. Children's books tend to have shorter chapters: I found 2,500 words a good length. It gave me 30 odd chapters for a 70,000 word book, which is pretty common. My WiP however is full of very short chapters as I am interweaving four different stories. So I would say chapter length is project specific.

    Ben Yezir
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Neonblast at 09:54 on 16 November 2011
    so manusha, would you say that 80,000 word novel is too short for adult fantasy?

    "the pen is mightier than the sword"
  • Re: Chapter Length? And how many?
    by Manusha at 17:15 on 18 November 2011
    80k is short-ish but doesn't sound too short, I guess it depends on the story. If it's fully told in that number of words then why add more just to bulk it out?
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