Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I Have Weird Chapter Lengths

I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to update since my computer has started acting up again. It will refuse to download and open files which sucks because I can no longer do much college work on my computer. Fortunately, it hasn't acted up in the last couple of hours so I have been able to write this. I just hope it doesn't spaz while I'm writing.

So I noticed that some people have chapters that are all close to identical in length and I began feeling paranoid about mine.

I sometimes get OCD and find it annoying that my chapters vary so much in size. I have some chapters that go past 3000 words and then some that don't even reach 1000 words. I did try and impose a rule on myself that all chapters had to be 3000 - 4000 words in length but ended up with chapters that contained either too much information of half a scene and would be cut up in unsuitable places.

The thing with chapters is that you cannot really determine how long they should be. Your chapters should be short enough to keep the reader reading (I refuse to read extremely long chapters) and long enough to tell the story.

Some might be long and some might be short. But at the end of the day, they need to end at a suitable place. A teacher once told me that each chapter should have one main event important to the overall plot. All other mini events in that chapter should be connected somehow to the main event, lead up to it or show the aftermath of the main event. If you do have a mini event and it is in no way connected to the main event of that chapter, it doesn't belong there and should be its own chapter.

This actually makes me feel better that my chapter lengths are so awkward. I think my shortest chapter has been less than 200 words. The chapter right before that was nearly 2800 words so the short chapter just looks out of place.

So how long are your chapters and do you feel the need to keep them the same length? I'd love to know!



  1. The chapters in my last story I wrote were all around 10-13 pages single spaced... I don't know how many words that is roughly? But the new story I started I know for sure are going to be all different lengths, I can just feel it with the type of story I want to write and the personality of my MC.

    I don't think it should matter how long a chapter is as long as it ties into the story smoothly.

  2. Mine are like this, too. Some are super long and some are super short. I was going to go through and try to even them out, but I decided not to. They work the way they are, you know?

  3. My chapters will vary a little in length. Some will be as short as 3 pages while others are as long as thirteen. They hardly ever are shorter/longer than that. Many of them seem to be a length between 3-13 pages, so it all balances out and meshes well together, I think. As long as I don't do something as dramatic as a one-page chapter here and a 50-page chapter there (who wants to write chapters that long?!), I think I'm doing fine, heh.

  4. @ Tristyn: 10 to 13 pages would be about 3000 to 3900 words if written (for me). 6000 words to 7800 words if typed up.

    It's great to have different lengths since it gives a bit of variety.

    I agree.

    @ Jessica Love: It's very hard to make chapters the same length. You never know where to cut them off that way.

    @ Heather H.: That's a lot of variation! I quite like one page chapters, if it's a mystery that is.

    A 50 page chapter sounds like murder! For some books, that could be 1/4 of the entire novel!

  5. I struggled with this one for a while. In the end I decided pretty much what everyone else is saying. Chapter lengths will vary. What matters is what happens in that chapter. I think you get a sense for when a chapter is too long, or when a chapter needs to be broken up into two or three chapters. The one that still bugs me is the first chapter. That's the one that's suppose to grab the reader's attention. Does that mean it should be short or long? Are you more likely to read the rest of the novel if chapter one is short and to the point? If you see that chapter one is 10 pages long, are you likely to put the book down? I tell myself it doesn't matter, the prose should engage the writer no matter how long the chapter is, but it still nags at me from time to time... :)

  6. I'm not really sure but I tend to find it harder to get into a book if there isn't a fantastic beginning. And I prefer that the first chapter isn't too long. But as long as the beginning isn't too slow then I don't mind the length.

    The first chapter is the worst in every single situation.

  7. I think it's great to have varying lengths in chapters. It shows that you're not just going go length but substance.


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