Write Life Saturday: how long are your chapters?

Today is Write Life Saturday, where I talk about all things writing-related (although to be fair, most of them are also reading-related). I really should make a banner/image thingy. Remind me for next time.

Today I want to talk chapters.

I like short chapters. Let’s get it out right now. I have a short attention span, and I like finishing at the end of a chapter. If the chapters are quite short, I basically just keep reading. But if they’re really long chapters…

image

Except not as cute. There are exceptions, of course. If a book is really well-written and has long chapters, I won’t mind so much. And the short-chapter thing is just a personal preference. It’s obviously not going to stand for everyone. That’d be boring.

I also tend to write short chapters. I went back through the last few of my WIP. These are the word counts of them.

1) 1797 words

2) 1357 words

3) 2511 words

…not exactly consistent. It’s probably 1500 words on average, which I know is pretty short. But everything is relative. In YA contemporary books, chapters tend to be shorter. Then there are books like Eragon that have chapters ranging from a page to…well, a LOT of pages. Some make use of funny chapter titles that pique your interest, like in Percy Jackson. Some might not be your usual chapters but diary entries, like in Writing Clementine.

percy jacksonImagewriting clementine

 

 

 

There are so many different ways to write chapters. Whether they’re a single line, or a single page, or 1500 words, or 5000 words, or 10,000 words, there’s room for them all. I will always stick to short chapters because my scenes usually tend to be quite short, and I like breaking things up frequently.

The biggest thing is not to force the end of a chapter. If you usually write a chapter with 2000 words and this one’s 2500 so far, don’t force the end of the chapter just to keep your average word count the same. Let it go on until it’s reached its natural ending – if you’re really worried about it you can cut it later.

How long are your chapters, usually, or does it depend what you’re writing? Readers! Do you like short chapters or long chapters?

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23 thoughts on “Write Life Saturday: how long are your chapters?

  1. My chapters are extremely inconsistent, ranging from around fifty words to three thousand in the same book.

    Short chapters are the best. Even with great novels I still find myself counting the pages left.

  2. I’m with you on the Short Chapters. I like to read short chapters for the same reasons you mentioned & I also think sometimes short chapters suit out lifestyle. Waiting for the train, tram, or bus… a quite short chapter is ideal. Lunch-break, after getting through your lunch, there’s nothing more enjoyable than finding a sunny spot on a autumn or spring day to reach a chapter or two before heading back to work/study.
    Honestly, I’ve often checked the pages of a chapter to see if I’ll bother reading it (I dislike not finishing at the end of a chapter also).

    And even though I write NA & Adult, I also write short chapters. My first chapters are generally under 1000-words and on average, they are around 2000-words.

    • Well, that’s it as well. Reading a short chapter in between everything else is great – time management, yay! It’s annoying having to finish somewhere that’s not distinctive…especially when my bookmark falls out (which happens a LOT).

      Interesting you say that your first chapters are shorter…for some reason, mine are often longer. But that average is probably similar to mine 🙂

  3. I, more a reader than a writer, like short chapters many times. They seem more organized, easier to follow, and I feel more… accomplished? If I were to write, I would probably go back and organize everything into particular events or time of day. So really, it depends.

  4. *hi fives* I’m with you. My chapters are anywhere from 1K to 3K…but on average I hit the 1.7K mark, I think. I used to write whopping big chapters…like, dude, we’re talking 4-5K on average. WHAT WAS I THINKING. Honestly writing was much easier when I was starting. 😉 But I think I put in so much useless stuff, and I just don’t put it in at all anymore, so my chapters are shorter? Anyways, says she who’s having a break after a 2.5K chapter. 😉

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one. Phew. 1.7k seems like a good number. Writing was SO much easier when I started. Just plodding along, writing whatever I wanted…but also it was shite. So. My chapters are also much shorter now – maybe also because I write contemporary rather than fantasy. But hey, however long it needs to be, that’s how long it should be.

  5. I LOVE the titles in the PJO books, super hilarious. 😀 I don’t write full-length books, but I usually write short stories with around the same number of words as yours, 1000-2000. When I read books, I don’t really mind the number of pages a chapter takes up, but I usually prefer them to be longer in fantasy novels. =)

    • Right? How good are they? I so want to do that for a book I write, eventually. Longer in fantasy novels is definitely something that usually happens – it often takes longer for a spot where you can stop the action. In contemporary it’s more often an emotional tense point rather than a plot-based one.

  6. I’m with you — I prefer to read short chapters. Ironically, though, I tend to write quite long chapters. For my mystery.thriller one of the chapters is 9000 words long. I know, I know, that’s really long. I DID try to split it up, once, but I when I read through it I felt like it broke up the flow of the chapter, you know? So I figured a long chapter would be better. (It was actually 14,000 words long originally . . . but I managed to cut it down during revisions.) BUT for that novel in question, some of the chapters are only 1500 words long. But yes — it just depends on the novel I’m writing at the time. Great post. 🙂

    • 9000 words! That is a WHOPPER of a chapter. But I’m an advocate of it taking as long as it takes – how long is a piece of string? As long as you make it. So really I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having different chapter lengths even within the same book, as long as the flow is there.

  7. So I just checked my WIP, and my last three chapters were (roughly) 3500, 2800 and 2700. So obviously I am keen on a bit longer chapters. But I don’t think they’re too long, because personally I enjoy shorter chapters, as well! Sometimes when I’m reading a book and I come across an uber long chapter I feel like it will be a chore to get through it. Which sounds awful but I cannot help it!
    I think it’s weird that my chapters are kind of the same length because I really don’t take any notice of them. For me it’s all about emotion. I end a chapter when I feel that it’s the right time to finish it. 😀

    • The best thing about reading is when you don’t realise how long a chapter is because you’re so involved in the story. Honestly, though I have a general preference for shorter chapters, as long as I’m not bored it’s fine by me to have longer chapters. You’re so right about a chapter finishing when it needs to – I’m trying to pay attention to that more rather than going, crap, this is a really long chapter.

  8. You made me feel so much better because my scenes and chapters are short, too!! As a reader, I don’t really care, to be completely honest with you.

  9. My chapters tend to be very short, mostly because I break my “novels” into short scenes, like yourself, but they can also be long. My shortest being 300 and longest 2k, so you can see that’s a pretty wide range! =) Personally, I don’t mind short or long chapters, so long as I don’t feel like the chapter was too short and choppy. Like you said, the author should write until the chapter has ended and not be too focused on keeping the average word count or even reaching a word count goal. So I really don’t mind, personally.

    • That is a pretty wide range! You make a good point about chapters being too SHORT too – I touched on them being too long, but short chapters can just as easily feel not right. It’s hard to put in a great deal of emotion if the scenes break up too early 🙂

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