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Thread: Lengths of my chapters are not uniform

  1. #1
    Writing and oceans, just dive in. msd's Avatar
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    Lengths of my chapters are not uniform

    I just completed my twentieth chapter and noticed that the length of my chapters vary a lot.
    Two are under 1000 words, seven under 2000 words, five under 3000 words, four under 4000 words and finally two under 5000.

    This is my first novel, so should I try to make the lengths of each chapter more uniform?
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  2. #2
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    No, it doesn't matter how long they are. In fact, some variation is probably good. Chapters that are always the same length can potentially set up monotonous rhythm. I've sometimes noticed this in my reading.

  3. #3
    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    What BethS said.

    Make your chapters as long as they need to be. Some might need to be three pages, some might need to be ten. Don't sweat it too much, especially if you're still in your first draft.
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  4. #4
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    What jeffo20 said...

    I've got chapters over the 10,000word mark, some not even scratching 300words. Doesn't matter.

    And I keep this up: The reader won't grow bored of a long chapter because of its length, but because of its content.
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  5. #5
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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  6. #6
    chronically underwhelmed Fantasmac's Avatar
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    I definitely agree, I've never put down a book because the chapters weren't uniformly distributed. If it really bothers you, combining some of the shorter chapters with scene breaks in between is also an option.

  7. #7
    Stay in and write. Erin Latimer's Avatar
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    Glad I stumbled on this thread, because I was wondering this myself. My chapters are all different lengths.
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    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    Pull out five of your favorite (or recently read) novels and take a peek at their chapters.
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  9. #9
    Mischievously Delicious! LadyV's Avatar
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    I got into the habit of making my chapters uniform in length because I read once in a "How to write a novel" type book that they should be. Apparently this was just the author's opinion. So listen to others. Don't worry about the lengths. Variation is good.

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  10. #10
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    It always is.

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyV View Post
    Apparently this was just the author's opinion. .
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  11. #11
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    So, every chapter should be the same length, according to some "experts?" Then, I suppose they should all have the exact same pacing, as well. Absurd? One is no more ridiculous than the other.
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  12. #12
    War of 1812 Vet Chase's Avatar
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    Each chapter must be 5,000 words--no less, no more.

    I exaggerate must and the strict limits, however not the bad advice. I can't recall where I heard it, but it's as silly now as it was then.

  13. #13
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Colonel Mustard faced Mrs Ponsonby. His finger pointed across the room. "There is the murderer of your late husband." All eyes followed the direction of his pointing finger. "
    Oh, drat- that's my 5,000 words used up. Never mind, the clues were there, the reader can work it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chase View Post
    Each chapter must be 5,000 words--no less, no more.

    I exaggerate must and the strict limits, however not the bad advice. I can't recall where I heard it, but it's as silly now as it was then.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  14. #14
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Chapters are like sentences and paragraphs -- they're as long or short as they need to be.

  15. #15
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    I tend to try to keep them above a certain minimum and below a certain maximum--I don't like writing chapters under ten mss pages or over twenty-five--but that's not a hard-and-fast rule (I've certainly broken it) and is just my personal preference. Chapters can be any length you like.

    I hate to be That Girl, but look at Mary Higgins Clark. Her chapters are sometimes only a page. Some people believe that really keeps people reading. Whatever works for you is what works.
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
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    Great question. One I have been asking myself. Not about longer chapters per se, but about the few tiny ones that have so much impact as stand alones but are so small in comparison with the rest.

  17. #17
    Tyrant King jeffo20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacia Kane View Post
    I tend to try to keep them above a certain minimum and below a certain maximum--I don't like writing chapters under ten mss pages or over twenty-five--but that's not a hard-and-fast rule (I've certainly broken it) and is just my personal preference. Chapters can be any length you like.
    Of the two novel-length manuscripts I've completed, I've found each of them tends to have chapters of similar lengths (with the odd outliers in either direction) within the work. In the first one, they tended towards 2-3000 words; the second, they were much longer. It's just how it wanted to be. I'll also admit that if I have a chapter that runs substantially longer or shorter than the rest, I tend to look at it and see if I can break it up or rework it to come closer to the others. So much for the advice of writing it as long or as short as it has to be, but I'm getting better at ignoring that impulse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stacia Kane View Post
    I hate to be That Girl, but look at Mary Higgins Clark. Her chapters are sometimes only a page. Some people believe that really keeps people reading. Whatever works for you is what works.
    I read one of James Patterson's books (well, more than one, but this one stuck out in my mind) where the chapters were maybe two or three pages long (small paperback edition, so they were really short). It was the reading equivalent of a strobe light, and extremely annoying.
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  18. #18
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    I hope it's not an issue, because my chapters range from around 1000 words to around 4500 in my novel. Some of my chapters have several scenes or pov shifts. Others focus on a single character. I've read other books that do it this way, so I think it's okay.

    I agree that reading a book where every chapter is exactly the same length, or arbitrarily cropped at a given length, would be monotonous.
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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW Heavenlydemonick's Avatar
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    While I agree that it doesn't matter what length your chapters are I did have someone who read my book complain that the first chapter was only ten or so pages and then the second chapter was like 50 pages (I think she missed a chapter in there because it wasn't true but it still shocked me that someone would complain about chapter length of all things.)

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW jmascia's Avatar
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    The only time chapter length is going to matter is when your publisher says it does. Some publishers want your chapters to be uniform, others could care less as long as you're telling an excellent story.
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  21. #21
    figuring it all out eyebee14's Avatar
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    Your chapters are as long as you need them to be. If they tell the story, then great! My chapters are all over the place. 3000 to 10000.
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  22. #22
    Azarath Metrion Zinthos AshleyEpidemic's Avatar
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    Break when necessary. The novel I wrote last month head 20 chapters ranging from 3800 to 6300. On my wip my chapters range from 1600 to 4200. It all depends on what I need to tell that chapter.
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