Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/a26f9f83/public_html/articles/includes/config.php on line 159
How Long is a Chapter? > NetSparsh - Viral Content you Love & Share

How Long is a Chapter?

How long should your chapters be?

I can't resist... I have to say it. "How long is piece of string?"

Of course, that smart-aleck answer is of no use to you whatsoever if you're sitting there, frozen over the keyboard, wondering where you should end Chapter One and start typing 'Chapter Two'.

Fact: Some books have chapters that are only a page or two long. These are not necessarily short storybooks for children, either. I just plucked "Cat And Mouse", a thriller by James Patterson, from my bookshelves. This 342-page novel has 130 chapters. Most chapters vary from just over one page to 3 pages in length - on average, 2 pages per chapter. There's a lot of white space at the end of most chapters, too! Patterson's chapters are actually very short scenes (or sequels to scenes).

Fact: The length of your chapters may depend on whether you're following genre guidelines. For example, check out several category romances by Harlequin, and you'll find that they tend to have around the same number of chapters. Educational publishers often are very prescriptive about chapter length (e.g. "These books will be approximately 3,500 words long, divided into chapters of 350-400 words").

Fact: Some books don't seem to have any chapters. They are divided into "Part One", "Part Two", "Part Three" etc and each "Part" consists of a series of scenes. You may get 100 pages and 20 scenes, with a space between each scene, but no chapters at all. Some readers find this very annoying - they like to stop reading at the end of a chapter! (Consider your own reading habits. How often do you slip a bookmark in at the end of a chapter, rather than at the end of a scene?)

Think "Scene", Not "Chapter"

Unless you are working to a set of guidelines issued by the publisher, stop fretting about chapter length and start thinking in terms of scenes. You plan each scene to move the story forward (like scenes in a movie). You don't finish a scene until you have achieved what you set out to do.

A chapter, however, can begin and end anywhere you like. You can break a chapter in the middle of a conversation. This is one way to get your reader turning the page instead of stopping for the night - they *have* to find out how things played out!

An example:

"I have no idea who he was," Kane insisted. "He just came up to me in the car park and started asking questions. Thought I was someone else."

Jasmine stared at his open, concerned face; at the complete puzzlement in his eyes. "You'd never seen him before? Not ever?"

"Never."

Jasmine swallowed hard. He was one of the best liars she'd ever encountered. Even now that she knew his real background, she couldn't shake the feeling that somehow she must have got it wrong. Not Kane...

"Jas?" Kane's eyes had narrowed slightly. "What is all this?" She glanced down at his hand on her arm, numbed. If she couldn't be just as good an actor as he was, she was in the worst trouble of her life.

CHAPTER TWO

"Jasmine?" Kane's grip tightened.

She glanced up at him, raw fear making it easy to summon tears. "I'm really sorry. When he started raving about that girl, I thought..."

"You thought what?" Kane's mask slipped for a fraction of a second, and a glint of ice in his gaze made her blood freeze before he covered with a familiar baffled grin. "What?"

"I thought you must have been having an..." she bit her lip, "...an affair."

"An affair?" Back on sure ground, Kane laughed and folded her in his arms. And so on. In this case, it was effective to put a chapter break in the middle of their scene of dialogue, because Jasmine has just realised that Kane is not what he seems and she's in big trouble. It's likely the reader will turn the page to see if she can get herself out of trouble.

Should Chapters All Be The Same Length?

No. Chapters can vary enormously in length. It can be very effective to have a 20-page chapter followed by one of just two pages, if you need to establish a quick bit of background or briefly show what another character is up to.

Children's books are more likely to have chapters of similar lengths than adult novels. The length of your chapters will depend on the finished length of your book. If I'm writing an early reader of, say, 2,000 words, I'd probably aim for about 7 chapters of 300 words each. However, it might work better to do 5 chapters of 400 words. I usually write a book of this length as a short story, then go back and look for good places to break the text. One chapter could be 350 words, and the next 420 words.

If I were writing a book for older children - say, 20,000 words - then 10-15 chapters between 1500 words and 2000 words could work well.

Chapter length is not really important. What *does* count is how well you keep the reader's attention in the current scene. Again, tap into your own reading experience. If the story has you totally absorbed, you'll keep reading no matter what length the chapters are.

How Do You Decide Where To Put a Chapter Break?

This is easy, really. If you're writing a short book for children, go through your story and draw a line across the page at a tense moment. Look for places where some sort of question is raised, where a decision has to be made, or action is about to happen. Obviously, readers will want to keep reading to find out what happens! You may have to rewrite the last few lines before and after a chapter break, or add a line, to make it read more smoothly.

What if you find that there are not many places where you can do this?

This is a good thing. You have probably discovered that there is not enough tension or conflict in your story. Go back and put it in. This way, you're working out the chapter breaks and improving the pacing and plot as well.

For adult novels: if your chapter seems to be interminable, go back and look for a good place to break it. The same applies here as it did to writing a children's book. If it all seems too 'even', you probably need to work on the pacing anyway.

You'll find that after a while, you develop an instinct about where to end one chapter and begin another. Don't forget the value of research - grab a couple of books by your favourite authors and see how they have handled this. It isn't necessary that every chapter end with a cliff-hanger, but you should 'write up' to the end of a chapter - leave the reader wanting to know more.

Simple, really. End your chapter in a place that is guaranteed to have your readers asking the age-old question that keeps popular authors rich and readers buying books: "What happens next?"

(c) Copyright Marg McAlister

Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

Forbes

5 Steps To Positioning Yourself As A High-Value Freelance Writer
Forbes
The gig economy is on the rise—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 57 million Americans are choosing this flexible alternative to traditional full-time employment. One of the most popular routes for freelancers and contractors? Writing ...


The Chronicle of Higher Education

'Approach Writing as a Fun Experiment'
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The writer Andrew Kay recently argued in our pages that the academic satire is dying. He says academics are too scared to laugh. Is he right? In the end, I just can't believe that. People need humor. It's a relief and a release. He emphasizes the ...


Voice of America

Report: Long Writing Assignments Now Less Common at US Colleges
Voice of America
Yet if you asked almost any professor or student, they would likely tell you that writing is one of the skills most often examined at colleges and universities. In the United States, writing long essays about complex subjects has been, in many cases, a ...


Mental Floss

London's Trafalgar Square Gets a Poetry-Writing Red Lion
Mental Floss
London's historic Trafalgar Square just got a fifth lion, the BBC reports. The fluorescent red, AI-powered lion takes visitor-submitted words and turns them into two-line poems, which are displayed on a screen inside its mouth. The history-inspired ...

and more »

Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

Our view: City, WBA need to put ageements in writing
Wilkes Barre Times-Leader
Luzerne County has long had a reputation for government deals made on the side with a handshake rather than a signature, getting things done with a verbal agreement rather than a written one. It is not an intrinsically bad thing. It can be expeditious ...


New York Times

The Writing Dead
New York Times
These days, when a popular author dies, financially savvy heirs often commission someone to keep writing his or her books. (There's even a term for this: “continuation literature.”) Sophie Hannah writes Agatha Christie novels; David Lagercrantz ...


Greensboro News & Record

What I'm Writing
Greensboro News & Record
Author: Valerie Nieman. City: Greensboro. Book title: “Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse”. Publisher: Press 53. What it's about: These poems tell the story of Dinah, an orphan child of Appalachia who runs away to a carnival, and the emotional, physical and ...


The Albany Herald

Alumni series focuses on Writing and Communications majors
The Albany Herald
TIFTON — While many people buy into the stereotype that students who study liberal arts disciplines in college will not get a job in their field, the people behind ABAC's Writing and Communications degree certainly don't. The Writing and ...


Washington Post

'100 Kegs or Bust': Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, has spent years writing about high school debauchery
Washington Post
A review of books, articles and blog posts by Judge — a freelance writer who has shifted among jobs at a record store, substitute teaching, housesitting and most recently at a liquor store — describes an '80s private-school party scene in which heavy ...
Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, has spent years writing about high ...The Mercury News
YouTube HTML5 Video PlayerYouTube
Hard Case Crime: the Beauty of Male Passion | www.splicetoday.comSplice Today
The Daily Caller -Georgetown Prep -Barnes & Noble
all 578 news articles »

The Spokesman-Review

The writing on the stalls: Students paint messages of hope
The Spokesman-Review
GRANITE FALLS, Wash. – Students at Crossroads High School want their classmates to find hope in an unexpected place. Teens from the leadership class painted the once-blue stalls in the school restrooms black. They returned with more brushes and ...
The writing on the stalls: Students paint messages of hope ...San Francisco Chronicle
The writing on the stalls: Students paint messages of hope | The ...The Bellingham Herald

all 40 news articles »
Google News

Need a Book Coach, Ghost Writer, or Editor? Part 2

If you either want to write a book to help... Read More

Common Writing Mistakes - Are These Holding You Back From Writing Success?

During the years that I've been teaching writing and participating... Read More

Writing Query Letters

A QUERY LETTER is written to an editor or agent... Read More

A Book Note Vs a Book Report

IntroductionSince our early days of elementary education we have been... Read More

Top Ten Reasons Its Great To Be A Writer

10 - You will always have a job. As long... Read More

Extreme Research: 10 Snappy Rules For Success

So you want to learn to research well, and not... Read More

Writer?s Web Resources

The Internet has truly revolutionized the careers of writers worldwide.... Read More

New York Code Orange Jaisini New Art Series

The creativity of Jaisini is not designed to be preaching... Read More

5 Effective Web Writing Tips

Writing for the web is very different from writing for... Read More

Crime Writing Beckons

If your cash is running out fast and you have... Read More

Learning How To Write

As a student of Spanish, my goal was to think... Read More

Plotting Problems - Episodic Writing

The rejection letter says: "Your story, on the surface, appears... Read More

A New Way To Self Publish

More and more good authors are turning to the Internet... Read More

6 Tricks To Squeeze Your Letters Onto One Page

Anyone who has read any of my articles on the... Read More

Greatness

[When I was a nineteen-year-old high school student and budding... Read More

Writing IS a Business

Why is it that so many people don't take writing-as-a-job... Read More

The One-Plot Wonder

Back in the mid to late 1980s I was a... Read More

Through the Eyes of an Artist

As writers, we initially tend to be either more cerebral... Read More

Writing For Free: When & When Not to Do It!

Right off the bat, I want to say that there... Read More

How You Can Become a Certified and Profitable Proofreader

A certified proofreader is one that has taken a few... Read More

The Arrogant Writer: Five Ways To Nurture and Defend Your Muse

Arrogance has a bad rap. We think of arrogant people... Read More

To Transcribe or Not To Transcribe Interviews?

11 Secrets from an Experienced InterviewerOne of the unwritten rules... Read More

Five Tips to Find More Time for Your Writing Life

When I asked new ezine subscribers, "What is your Number... Read More

Writing With Power: 5 Snappy Rules For Success

Almost everyone could profit from enhancing their writing skills. From... Read More

Becoming the Total Package

Being a great writer is no longer enough if you... Read More