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View Full Version : What's a good word-count for a chapter?


yakkity
09-02-2009, 09:23 AM
I tried using the 'search' function for this, but I think I broke it!

My chapters are averaging 2300 words each. Is that considered a decent length?

Birol
09-02-2009, 09:34 AM
Yes. And No. It depends.

Is that how many words you need to make that chapter the best it can be within the context of the story you are telling?

blacbird
09-02-2009, 12:11 PM
What's a good thread count on the number of threads at AW devoted to this question?

caw

kct webber
09-02-2009, 12:12 PM
What's a good word-count for a chapter?

Between 1 and where it ends.

Seriously. How many words to you need to finish the chapter? That's how many words you need to finish a chapter.

AngelBluefairy
09-02-2009, 12:37 PM
If you say 250 words per page, and about ten pages per chapter.
It's simple: you can do the math. Your answer would be roughly about what's right.
250x10=2,500.

Stijn Hommes
09-02-2009, 01:41 PM
People tend to get bogged down in the numbers when it's the story that matters. I like to end chapters on a cliffhanger, so I write until I reach it and I somehow manage to write chapters of a similar length.

In short: the length is irrelevant. You need to focus on the content. Stories have a natural ending, and so do chapters.

Danthia
09-02-2009, 05:09 PM
As my old creative writing teacher once said "The length of a girl's skirt. Long enough to cover everything, but short enough to be interesting."

There's no set word count. It has more to do with story and flow and pacing. If you want a quicker pace, a shorter chapter is one way to help achieve that. If you have multiple POVs, shorter chapters can help keep them all in the reader's mind better since less time passes between being in their heads. A longer chapter can help aid in developing rising suspense and tension, or focus on a key point of the story. It's all about what you're trying to achieve.

And then some folks just have a natural chapter length and that's how they write their scenes. Mine tend to fall right around 2500 words (give or take 500). That's just naturally how I build my stories. A good friend of mine does longer ones.

If you're concerned about your chapters being too short, double check them to make sure they're doing what you want, and not just skimming the surface of the story. Do they have enough character depth? Are they layered? Is the setting and world building solid? Is it all dialog and action and not much else? My first drafts of a chapter are always very short because most of that stuff isn't there yet.

ccv707
09-02-2009, 05:24 PM
As long or short as it needs to be. There are no real absolutes to anything in this universe of ours, and writing is certainly no exception.

kct webber
09-02-2009, 05:34 PM
If you say 250 words per page, and about ten pages per chapter.
It's simple: you can do the math. Your answer would be roughly about what's right.
250x10=2,500.

Never trust math to write your stories. ;)

Straka
09-02-2009, 05:45 PM
Never trust math to write your stories. ;)

That's true. Terry Pratchett doesn't even have chapters! Glenn Cook has chapters that are a single page.

Lately I've been designation chapters after I've finished and edited the work to consider scene flow and pacing.

Freelancer
09-02-2009, 05:49 PM
Just as the others are telling you, there is no exact word count for a chapter. i.e. the chapter that on I'm currently working is 74 pages long. And? It must be this long, because the story of this chapter requires this length.

Never trust math to write stories. The only exception is when the story itself requires math. :)

Phaeal
09-02-2009, 06:02 PM
As my old creative writing teacher once said "The length of a girl's skirt. Long enough to cover everything, but short enough to be interesting."

Exactly.

In my last completed novel, I have chapters around 1500 words long, chapters around 5000 words long, everything in between. Chapters one sentence long can work. Even chapters one word long. Possibly chapters with no words at all.

I don't mind long chapters, but some readers do, and so do some publishers. If I go over thirty pages in MS for one chapter, I start looking for places to break it into smaller chapters, or I start tightening up my prose. Or both.

Phaeal
09-02-2009, 06:05 PM
As long or short as it needs to be. There are no real absolutes to anything in this universe of ours, and writing is certainly no exception.

It's an absolute that any thread like this one will produce a comment that there are no absolutes. Einstein discusses this law in his treatise on Really Special Relativity.

Darzian
09-02-2009, 06:18 PM
As my old creative writing teacher once said "The length of a girl's skirt. Long enough to cover everything, but short enough to be interesting."


Perfect analogy. :D

AngelBluefairy
09-05-2009, 03:27 AM
Never trust math to write your stories. ;)
I agree.

imagoodgurl4
09-07-2009, 08:04 PM
There is no set word count for a chapter. It's however long it needs to be. I've read books where a chapter consists of one page and others were chapters are 30 pages long. It depends on your story and your style. The more important thing is to get your story written and then you can trim or add to your chapters and tie up all the loose ends.

Wonderlander
09-07-2009, 09:27 PM
While it's absolutely true that a chapter needs to be long enough to do all the things it needs to, it's still worth bearing in mind that a lot of people read before bedtime, and chapter endings are natural breaks to put the book down (or not) before they sleep.

So by making them very long and diffuse, you're potentially missing a good way to manipulate the reader's experience of your book. You can choose when they take a toilet/sleep break for your own dramatic purposes.

With that in mind, I try to keep my chapters at 5K at an absolute max. But as has been mentioned above, there's no reason not to structure your work any way you like if it suits your purpose.

cscarlet
09-08-2009, 05:39 AM
I think authors find their own natural tendencies when writing. Some tend to gravitate towards longer chapters, while others gravitate towards shorter chapters. There is no right or wrong.

For example, I realized the other day that I have four different chapters I have written so far in my WIP which are EXACTLY 2,419 words long. Mind you, not 2,500, or even 2,420. Yes, they are exactly 2,419 words and I did NOT plan it that way in the least.

My only feeling (besides being slightly weirded out) is that it is my "tendency" to get through scenes in about that amount of time/word count. If that's the case, so be it! Anything more or less would be incomplete, or contrived. :)

Cella
09-08-2009, 05:45 AM
Some tend to gravitate towards longer chapters, while others gravitate towards shorter chapters. There is no right or wrong.


Good thing for me. Mine are averaging about 5K words AFTER I've trimmed out everything I can. I can't tell a short story.

yakkity
09-08-2009, 10:52 AM
Thanks, y'all.