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Thread: YA chapter length

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I read somewhere, that readers tend to read more in one sitting if the chapters are short because they have the sensation to progress faster and want to read "one more chapter" before putting the book down.

    Personally, I don't like very long chapters (some long books have literally only 3 chapters) but I also don't think 2-3 pages should be a stand alone part. Feels a bit empty. It think longer chapters are ok as Long as they are some kind of scene separation that can be a good stop (Murakami does this a lot).

    I am wondering if it is better to mix thing around, or keep a consistent length of all the chapters?

  2. #2
    What to my wondering eyes... AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    I think chapters should be somewhat consistent within a book, but that somewhat is very wishy-washy. A short chapter among longer ones can emphasize itself, but only if they're few and far between. A long chapter among shorter ones, though, can sometimes annoy a reader who has gotten used to the short chapters. When I get a short-chapter book, it's a book I use for short chapter purposes (a book I read in the bathroom, a book I read a chapter of every X number of words I write, as another, a book I read on lunch break because I'll probably find a chapter break near the end of my half hour). But short chapters can also seem to interrupt the flow of the story, putting artificial breaks in there. It also gives permission to the reader to stop, so it's a double-edged sword between whether it makes them read one more (short) chapter or makes them put the book down faster than they would have if the chapter was another 2K words.

    In the end, it's all about what works best for your story and your writing. Chapter breaks should feel natural.

    (It's been a while since I wrote a book without alternating POVs at chapter breaks, but I seem to recall chapter breaks without them feeling natural )
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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin RoseDG's Avatar
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    It is very much a personal taste thing. I can't imagine a YA novel with only 3 chapters, however.

  4. #4
    Mentoring Myself and Others Debbie V's Avatar
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    There are books with one sentence chapters. (I know I've read one but I don't know what it was.) This isn't the norm for the book, of course. (I know Maniac Magee, which is MG, has half-page chapters.) It's all in what you want the chapters to do. For my WIP, they have to feel complete and all scenes in them relate to a theme. Length varies based on that, but they come up close to the same. But I know that one sentence chapter made me stop and think.

  5. #5
    I got it covered Undercover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Debbie V View Post
    There are books with one sentence chapters. (I know I've read one but I don't know what it was.) This isn't the norm for the book, of course. (I know Maniac Magee, which is MG, has half-page chapters.) It's all in what you want the chapters to do. For my WIP, they have to feel complete and all scenes in them relate to a theme. Length varies based on that, but they come up close to the same. But I know that one sentence chapter made me stop and think.
    I've seen this in books too, the tiny chapters. I think it's neat. It can be very effective in some cases.

  6. #6
    The snozberrys taste lke snozberrys spikeman4444's Avatar
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    Love short chapters. I can fly through a book with short chapters, but long chapter books take forever for me. Probably because I hate stopping mid-chapter so I will put off reading until I know I can finish the chapter in one sitting, and it takes days sometimes to get that time.
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  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank you all for your answers!

    I am trying to keep close to a target of 4,000 - 5,000 words max per chapter, but it's true that sometimes the story has its own rules, and when I finish a chapter with 2,700 words I feel like I must add something more which is a bit stressful. I am guessing these things can be fixed in revision. For me the most important is to have a neat start of a chapter and a "boom" ending (I love cliffhangers

  8. #8
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    SCENES, not chapters, are what we should be concerned about. They are the basic unit of every plot.

    Chapters are just containers of scenes. They can hold one scene or several scenes. If we do our job well our readers will be totally immersed in our story. The end of a chapter then becomes just be a convenient place for them to bookmark the page, letting them rush to the bathroom or grab their dinner out of the microwave.

    Chapters are thus more useful to us than to our readers. Some very successful authors put one scene to a chapter. If that works for you, fine. But other authors use them to collect several related scenes together. For instance, we might put a big chase-fight sequence made up of several scenes into a chapter.

    Another example is in a book I'm reading. Each chapter contains several scenes from the viewpoint of one of the three main characters. The author weaves the story out of these three threads as each of the MCs tackles a shared problem from different directions.

    Especially when we have a complicated story, we can use the practice of encapsulating related scenes in a chapter to help organize our thoughts as we write or re-write.

    One point. Putting more than one scene to a chapter means we need to signal the break between scenes in some way. This lets our readers bookmark the break if they want to. Or maybe shift their viewpoint if, for instance, several scenes switch back and forth between characters. As in a chase sequence: chaser/chased/chaser/chased/etc.

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