Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Length of Chapters

I am done with the hard revisions of my work (which is called In The Shadow of Honey Locusts) and I am giving it a last read, making minor changes here and there.  I think I have said that before but hopefully it is true this time.

In the absence of former training or coursework, I find it challenging to manage some aspects of writing.

Take, for example, chapters.

How long should each chapter be?  Should their length be somewhat uniform or can one be 5 pages and the next 500?

As one who reads a lot, I know there are no hard and fast rules (although having a 500-page chapter is probably not a good idea), but some guidance, even if by analogy, is helpful.

I look at each chapter as telling a mini (although not necessarily stand alone) story that forwards the overall plot, just long enough to serve its purpose.

One blogger / author likened chapters to TV shows. When a TV show finishes its first act (which often happens right after something significant is revealed), it goes to commercial break. Then the second act comes, with the same set-up and rules.  Same for the third act and so on.  He suggests we look for our chapters to have similar elements and when we reach a “commercial break,” we are wise to end the chapter and start a new one.

Do you follow any rules in creating chapters or do you just let it flow as it may?


  1. I don't really follow any rules in creating chapters. I just know when I get to the end of certain scenes that that's a line with which one should end a chapter.

    The TV show example makes a lot of sense.

  2. I try to keep mine around the same length, and for me 8 is the magic number. It hasn't always been, but that's the trend I'm falling into recently and it has been working.

  3. I think following the TV show is a really good idea and it's what I've been doing without even realizing the comparison. I think it also has a lot to do with the story you're telling. In James Patterson's suspense stories, he's known for his short chapters. It keeps the tension in the air and the reader moving along at a very fast pace. I can see where a different genre might be done at a very different pace.

  4. I'm not sure there are any rules for chapter length, and variety is okay.

  5. I've read that the length of the chapters really depend on the genre you are going for. YA for instance can have really short chapters, other fiction would normally have 12 pages chapters. Honestly, I think that as long as the story is good it shouldn't matter how long the chapters are :)


  6. I struggled with this recently with my own WIP! Then I read a boo where this author had chapters that were about a page and a half long (granted he had about 60 chapters or more all total). But like you said, it marks the end of a major plot point or at least a significant one!

  7. Hello everyone - thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! It helps SO much to see what other writers are thinking and how they approach certain issues in writing.
    Have a great week!