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Author Resource Round Table > Chapter length

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message 1: by Andy (new)

Andy Elliott | 33 comments In my first book I had a mixture of medium ish length chapters, varying on average between ten and twenty pages (with around 280 words per page).

I'm on book two and the chapter lengths seem to be varying much more erratically. One is over forty pages long, whereas another is only three and a half. Both chapters tell a part of the story that I don't believe would work if split or combined with the adjacent sections of the book.

Has anyone else had a bit of a headscratch over getting the length correct, or do folks not really mind if there's a short or overly long chapter?


Michael Cargill Cargill (michaelcargill) | 217 comments Chapters are more about plot points and character perspectives than length.

I wouldn't really worry about it.


message 3: by F.F. (new)

F.F. McCulligan | 64 comments I love short chapters! And I especially love short ones mixed in with long and medium ones. Variety is the spice of life. My least favorite thing is uniformity.


message 4: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Hartwell | 40 comments You need a dramatic end to a chapter. The white space between the last period and the first word of the next chapter emphasizes the drama. So the cliffhangers should dictate chapter length.


message 5: by Ed (new)

Ed Morawski | 229 comments I agree that a chapter end must have drama. Too many authors tend to just end a chapter for no apparent reason.

But also the reader needs to have some sense of break time planning. I think it's unfair to mix long and short chapters because today's busy person must be able to pause or stop occasionally and a chapter is the perfect place to leave them thinking.

I would challenge authors to write within chapters just for that purpose. Ten pages or so seems ideal to develop a beginning and dramatic cliffhanger chapter end. Just my two cents.


message 6: by Arabella (new)

Arabella Thorne (arabella_thornejunocom) | 354 comments Forty pages seems awfully long..especially since some chapters are short. Yes each chapter needs to end with a hook to keep the reader turning pages...and for me it's not so much uniformity it really is about time...forty pages is rather daunting when you are reading at work!


message 7: by Abby (new)

Abby Vandiver | 124 comments I agree that forty (40) pages is too long. People like to read on the bus on the way to work, or in the bed before turning off the light. The end of a chapter is a good place to stop. If the chapters are long, you won't want to take a chance on sneaking in a chapter when you have a minute.

But, I disagree that every chapter end has to be climatic. If the book is good, the reader will want to continue whether the last chapter was a cliffhanger or not.

My advice, keep them short.


message 8: by Andy (new)

Andy Elliott | 33 comments Thanks for the advice so far. I've had a friend read the forty page chapter and he pointed out a (glaringly) obvious point where it can be sliced in two. I'm glad that other people like short chapters. One of my favourite ones probably only recounts one minute of time passing in the book, but it's so different to the events that surround it I had to single it out.


message 9: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Hartwell | 40 comments I split chapters into scenes, which provide good stopping places for people who can only read snatches at a time. But if you want people to say "I couldn't put it down," you do need cliffhangers at the ends of chapters.


message 10: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 361 comments The only thing I resent is super short chapters. A chapter of one paragraph is not a chapter, I'm sorry. It's pretentious. (I'm looking at YOU, John Norman!)
OTOH, your work may not call for actual chapters at all. It may break more naturally into several chunks, which you could simply call Part 1, Part 2, or some other title. There's nothing set in stone about it.


message 11: by L. (new)

L. Benitez | 118 comments Personally, my chapters are anywhere from 15-30 pages long. I like to power point each chapter I write; I will accomplish 'this' in this chapter and so on. Sometimes when they turn out to be long I'll read it over and decide if it should be shortened.

As far as personal taste goes, I'm not a fan of short choppy chapters. I would rather a book have 12 solid chapters than 40 mini ones. That's how I like to write my books anyway. I understand some authors prefer to write differently, so as I like to say, we all have different cups of tea =)


message 12: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (NancyJanes) | 7 comments I do endings at scene changes or split overly long chapters into two or more at suitable places. After a little experience you will learn to vary the length of your
chapters to your overall topic. It's not a crisis if you have a short chapter among the many,but I would keep them to a minimum.


message 13: by Ira (new)

Ira Nayman (arnsproprietor) | 9 comments Chapters often end with a shift in time or place (as do scenes in plays or movies); they can also end with a shift in point of view from one character to another. Personally, I find ending a chapter on a dramatic note, only to have the scene continue in the next chapter unnecessary.

Ultimately, chapter breaks have to serve your story. (For this reason, I am wary of people who say that chapters must fall within a specific page or word length; such arbitrary measures may not be helpful in telling your story.)

My first novel had about 14 chapters, each determined by the criterion above. The novel I am currently working on has five chapters that take place in five different time periods. I think both in the context of the story I am trying to tell.


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