How long should a chapter be?

quill-and-paper

This might seem like an odd question but one that worries me. When I first starting writing I goggled this question and came across an author who said all his chapters were 2500 words long. That sounded ok so I tried that but soon realised how silly it was to restrict yourself to an arbitrary limit. I also wonder about his book structure it must be quite odd cutting scene short or dragging them out to hit his chapter word count rather than the needs of the story, however I digress. In the end I just ended chapters where I thought they should but this has left me with a problem. I find myself with some as short as 1,300 words and one with 8,400. Is the first one too short is the last one too long? Doesn’t it even mater? Why is this worrying me?

Answers on a postcard please.

 

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28 thoughts on “How long should a chapter be?

  1. There is some psychology involved. Just like you should make a point to vary the length of your paragraphs in order to keep the readers eye from getting bored, you should vary the chapter lengths as it makes the story seem more dynamic on an subconscious level.

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  2. I agree with Wendy in that you should let the story tell you when it has come to the end of a chapter. Personally, I do not like long chapters but, then again, I don’t like it when there was no need to start a new chapter. I’m probably of no help on this matter.

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  3. I’ve read somewhere that each of your chapters should be read in less than 20min by the average reader because that’s the average time most of us non bookaholics have – a few minutes before bed. However I agree with everyone else about not having to follow a strict structure. I see that normally the first chapters are shorter (beginning) and then in the middle we get longer chapters for the action and core. I’m fine with that and as long as there’s some sort of “rhythm” I think anything could work.

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  4. I have always thought that a chapter is a “logical” ending for a portion of the story. So my opinion is that the chapter ends when you can get to that point in your story.

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      1. So perhaps you need to purposefully build in a stopping point? Something else to consider is there clarity in your writing or unnecessary filler that could be trimmed?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey there! I posted a link to this in a Facebook group that I am in cause I feel like a lot of new writers struggle with this same question. I kind of try to keep my chapters around the same length. My shorter ones tend to be around 4000 words and my longer ones are around 6000.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting dilemma there Eric, personally I think the author can finish wherever he wants, having read a few books over the years, I have noticed writers tend to end a chapter after achieving a certain event or scenario, but at the same time leaving a build up to the continuing story to get the reader back, so having said that, it would seem that the vital part of the story could be long in it’s production of the scenario, and the shorter chapters a sort of fill in, either way the story should compel the reader to come back for more, some books I notice actually build up the intrigue from the start and won’t release the intrigue till the final chapter, much like a movie when the final curtain comes down. Well that’s my two bobs worth Eric, cheers mate and Persevere.
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