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  1. #1
    Tim Underwood

    Chapters and Chapter Length

    I have a number of scenes (14 out of 34 written) but have a question. My scenes vary in length from about 1000 words to about 3000 words, i.e. some shorter and some longer, but not too many of middle length.

    I'm looking for opinions on whether to have longer chapters, for instance 10 chapters with 3 - 4 scenes per chapter, or shorter chapters that typically only contain one scene.

    I know there isn't any perfect answer, but I wanted to understand different views so that I could organize my scenes for the best effect.



  2. #2
    Ce Ce

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    A chapter should be as long as it needs to be.

    There really, really aren't any rules.


    Your only goal is to keep the reader engaged and eager to turn the page. However you do that, if it works, it works.

  3. #3
    Mark Phillips

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    Yes, CeCe is correct, there is no real rule.

    However, chapter length depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I don't outline, so my books tend to follow a natural kind of flow, when they're written correctly that is, and that works for me. As the book starts to come to close I tend to quicken my chapters and write in shorter sentences to add tension to the writing. That's about the only advice I have about chapter length.

    Hope that helps,


  4. #4
    Linden Holidae

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    yes, it's true, there are no rules, they are all in our minds. I still like to separate my chapters into events, mini stories that can stand on their own, and also incert the end of the chapter where there will be a good "bathroom break," or "intermission."

  5. #5
    d. Leroy

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    I've had a lot to drink tonight, so my post my not make a lot of sense.

    But, my chapter breaks tend to lean toward POV. I write a chapter from one POV and it may be 5 pages, another may be 15. Another may be 1 page.

    As mentioned above, this is something you have complete control over. As long as the breaks make sense and are logical - you just don't wnat to leave the reader scratching their head, wondering what the hell that was all about.

  6. #6

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    This is a common question with new writers. That said, everyone is correct--there are no rules.

    Take James Patterson for example. A typical novel may contain 125 chapters; some as short as a page.

    Perhaps Stephen King with no chapters?

    Other novelists will carry on for 20,000 words in one chapter.

    Personally, I like to divide scenes by chapter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The important thing is your flow and if things connect and break at the right time.

  7. #7
    Derek Wayne

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    I agree that there are no set rules; but I find really short chapters (like James Patterson books--half a page??) jarring and annoying.

  8. #8

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    "I find really short chapters (like James Patterson books--half a page??) jarring and annoying."

    And yet . . . 150 million copies worldwide.

    Sometimes I just wonder.

  9. #9
    Mark Phillips

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    Best chapter in a book ever?

    My mother is a fish

    Varadman-As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

  10. #10
    Somemo Mojo

    Re: Chapters and Chapter Length

    Really wondering about this regarding my ms. Thinking of two very different - and very long - novels Allan Folsom's thriller The Day After Tommorow and Pat Conroy's wonderful Prince of Tides, it works both ways. Although I wasn't crazy about Folsom's novel - its short chapters kept me turning the pages pretty quickly. It was an action driven plot and short chapters seemed to work well with quick scene/sub plot changes. Conroy's chapters go on forever in the Prince of Tides, but they worked for me because the story seemed to need the reader to get deep into Tom Wingo's character in an attempt to feel what he felt.

    Toss up I guess. Good luck! Hope we both have successes in finding the right driver for our stories.

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