Chapter length? Word count 35,025 (wp) 43,500 (pr)

Monday, April 16, 2007, 11:03 PM

I've been wondering about chapter length in my current novel. In my last novel, I kept the chapters to a minimum of ten manuscript pages, usually to a maximum of twenty. The last chapter I just finished in the new one was four pages - the one before that was five. In the last novel, I had multiple scenes per chapter, including POV shifts (but never within a scene). With the new one I'm starting a new chapter for every POV shift (though consecutive chapters may also be in the same POV). There really only are the two POV characters in this one.

Anyway, my point is, is this a good or a bad thing? I leafed through a few of the books on my shelf to see what other writers do, and it varies. Thomas Harris, for instance, favours short, snappy chapters, and Silence of the Lambs has sixty chapters, which is a lot for a not particularly long novel. Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas is something similar. On the other hand, my Carl Hiaasen books generally have a reasonably chunky 500 pages, but only come out at thirty to thirty-five chapters. They may not feel as pacey to read as SOTL or Odd Thomas, but they're not exactly leisurely either.

I like the idea of the short chapters giving the novel pace, particularly where it's at right now where a lot of the major plotting is happening, but at the same time I'm worried it might have the effect of making it seem a little light-weight.

Dunno. I suppose I'd better just write the bloody thing and see.



Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

Yeah, you must just write the thing and see what the book itself wants.

I don't know about your last book--unless it's a thriller I think 10 ms pages would feel really choppy to me. It's a tricky business providing satisfaction and a cliffhanger in each chapter. Mine usually run short in the beginning of the book and then stretch out as the story finds its pace. But I think Sentinel will have shorter, snappier chapters because that book is feeling more like a thriller to me in this version. Problem is, it's a four-book series and I don't want all the books to be like that.

Who knows? I struggle with this all the time.

3:29 AM  
Blogger McKoala said...

I wrote my most recent draft without any chapters at all. Massive thumbs down from beta readers. Now I have to put them all back in!

3:53 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Well I've just started writing my first ever novel and all my chapters are 5-10 pages long depending on what happens. But when I'm READING I've found that I prefer shorter chapters than long. Mostly this is because when I get really into a book I don't like to stop so I'll say "Just one more chapter" and keep reading.
If the chapter is really long then I spend too much time reading. I usually look ahead in a book to see how long a chapter is before I start it. If it's about thirty pages long I'll wait till later to read again if i want a break but if it's only 5-10 pages, I get that sucker read!
Also I hate to stop reading in the middle of a chapter and like to pick up exactly at chapter seven or chapter so and so. So if I'm getting tired of reading I'm actually hoping that a chapter will be a short one.
So that's from my point of view as a reader. I like shorter chapters. Four or five Manuscript pages turns into seven or eight in book form which is a prefect sized chapter for me...
But some books are SOOOO good that I lose track of chapters all together which happens most of the time. Chapters don't really matter that much to the reader if it's a good book I skim over them without taking note of how long they are. They're more to the writer's benefit I think.
They're so you can remember what happened and where it happened in the book. Like in my book if I want to change something that happened at this part, I remember, "Oh that was in chapter eight!" so I go to chapter eight and change it. I wouldn't get to worried about chapter length.

wow... I pretty much just wrote a flippin essay about chapter length... Hmmm... maybe I should turn that typing power to my novel instead...

Anyway, hope that helps even though I'm probably the only one who knows what the heck I'm talkin about.


12:24 AM  

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