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Thread: How many chapters, and how long?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin markchandler's Avatar
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    How many chapters, and how long?

    Alrighty There People!

    I'm writing a novel that is aimed at teenage lads, around the 13-16 year old age mark, and it's an action/adventure kind of book.

    Anyway, I was just wondering, how many chapters should such a book have, and how long should the chapters be?

    Also, how much should go into desribing the characters physically, bearing in mind the attention span of the reader?

    Your help much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Mark
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  2. #2
    Mostly Ignored spike's Avatar
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    There are many guides and rules to chapters/description/etc for children's books. Most offer contradictory/outdated info. You'll go crazy trying to find "the answer".

    Best advice: Go to your local bookstore and look at the books that yours will be shelved near. See how other authors handled those things.
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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Chapter length doesn't matter. You can have chapters that are one page, or 5 or 10 or 15. It depends on the book, but you'll find them to be all sizes.

    Just write the book. You'll know when to start a new chapter.

    Description... it depends on your style and personal taste. Are you literary or commercial? You mention action/adventure -- then naturally you won't have as much character description as a long, descriptive, meandering literary historical, say, because your focus is on the action. It also depends on the POV.

    Go get those lads! Lads that age need more books, for sure.

  4. #4
    I use the basic rule of thumb: change chapters when you change scenes. You could end up with twenty, thirty or a hundred. Chapters can be just a few paragraphs if that's all that's required. Then again, a scene could be so complex and seen from different point of views, that it might be necessary to break that one scene into different chapters.

    But Spike's advice is essential: read as much young adult stuff as possible, particular that aimed at young boys because it's a very specific style of writing - high in technical detail and facts, not so high in metaphor and feelings.

  5. #5
    resident curmudgeon
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    Length

    Check the top publishers guidelines. These are updated regularly, and it's the best way to know how long a given type of novel should be.

    Beyond this, if you want a template, check out several recent teen books from the library and use them as guidelines.

  6. #6
    Crypto-fascist Soccer Mom's Avatar
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    In the toolbox sticky at the top of the Children's forum is a link for Renaissance Learning. It can help you determine how many words are in a book. Simply plug in the title of the book and click the link to the book that pops up. It tells you reading level, AR points, word count and publisher, all of which are very useful information. As JamesA said, pay attention to who is publishing your type of books, then check out their submission requirements.
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  7. #7
    figuring it all out
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    It just depends on your story, and what the requirements of your story are.

    My chapters vary depending on the pacing. If I need the story to move fast, I use short, quick chapters with less description and more action. When the story needs to slow down, the chapters are longer.

    Just write your story. Chapters and their length can be readjusted as needed when you revise.

    As far as description goes, read a lot of books targeted to the same age group, and follow your own natural, writerly instincts.

  8. #8
    Over the hills and far away Zolah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markchandler
    Alrighty There People!

    I'm writing a novel that is aimed at teenage lads, around the 13-16 year old age mark, and it's an action/adventure kind of book.

    Anyway, I was just wondering, how many chapters should such a book have, and how long should the chapters be?

    Also, how much should go into desribing the characters physically, bearing in mind the attention span of the reader?

    Your help much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Mark
    You cannot find the answer to this question by posting it on a forum. It's like asking 'how long is an adult novel and how many chapters should one have - and how much description should I put in?' Just because you're writing for children, it does not mean you are writing by numbers. You need to get to know your chosen genre really, really well and then make decisions based on your knowledge and what seems right to you and for your story. Start by reading all the 'Alex Rider' books by Anthony Horowitz (these books are massively successful). When you've finished that series, speak to your local children's librarian or children's bookseller about how to build on that foundation. Only when you can answer these questions yourself will you be ready to start writing a book for this age group.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    I once was that age and read many books for adults because the juv./ya books were not long and the story did not spark my intrests. I think you should keep in some descriptions so they will want to read and feel for the characters.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Hopcus's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how apt this advice is, but I once heard the rule of thumb: chapters in YA should be about as long as the target audience's age (i.e. 13 yr old= 13 pg chpts).

  11. #11
    present timewaster's Avatar
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    Never heard of that before. Most of mine have forty plus chapters and are aimed at twelve plus, so I don't think its a rule universally applied if it's a rule at all.

  12. #12
    Incurable Aussiephile eyeblink's Avatar
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    Whatever suits the rhythm of your novel. Much as I liked David Almond's Skellig, forty-six chapters in a novel barely over 30,000 words was much too staccato for me.

    On the other hand, I've read novels (YA and adult) with no chapters at all, only linebreaks between scenes.

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