Chapter Length

[About Cat Hartliebe] [Writer’s Stuff]

When writing longer books, chapters are useful. They help a reader break down the massive compilation into separate pieces.

Typically, a chapter equates to a scene. That doesn’t mean one scene equals to one chapter every time. There’s lots of reasons to break the book into chapters.

For one: ease of reading for the reader.
It’s the biggest one, actually. You are trying to make it easier for the reader to read. Chapters don’t end in such a way that lets a read want to stop, but gives them an easy place to find later.

Another reason is: tension.
Chapter breaks and page breaks can create their own version of tension. It’s creates a form of long pause as the reader has to move on to the next chapter right then.
Most chapter breaks use tension.

The break is meant to improve flow.

The break can be used to jump a time frame.

The break can be a switch in point of view.

The break can be used to start a new scene.

The break can be used to start a new setting or direction.

There are LOTS of reasons to start a new chapter.

Which is a good thing. Since most reader prefer a shorter chapter. A few thousand words gives the chapter enough body without being too much.

What’s too short? What’s too long?

There is no such thing as too short or too long.
There is a caveat, though. Super short or overly long chapters must have a reason for them. True chaos typically doesn’t work in a story. Twenty words giving the weight of depression on a character between major scenes can work. Having only three chapters in a novel can work.
But you need to ask yourself why?

Each story should have a general word count goal for chapters. Most authors end up picking the same word count goal for their books. I like my long chapters. I like to have a fully created short story in each chapter creating a series of shorts. So I just ended up doing chapters on the higher end.

It’s fine. I know I may be putting off readers. It has me thinking of cutting my chapters in half.

What is the desired word count goal for a chapter besides the above comments?

Random polls on twitter have suggested three thousand words for an adult or young adult novel as a good average. It’s not too long nor too short. A full scene should fit in there easily enough.
But it depends on the circumstances in the book and the author who writes it. Every word count length is acceptable.

There are even books out there that are novels without any chapters or breaks. Just one long novel without breaks. And it worked.

The only question you have to ask the book’s chapters is: Why should I break it here? Why shouldn’t I break it here?

[About Cat Hartliebe] [Cat Hartliebe’s Books] [Writer’s Stuff]

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