Discussion Chapter length?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Sable_Hart, Nov 17, 2012.

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  1. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    Out of curiosity, do any of you have tips/suggestions/comments on chapter length? My present draft of a chapter is about 4,600+ words and might very well cap 5k before I finish. Too long?
  2. earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    I have chapters with that many words and usually let a chapter end with something to have the reader eager to know what will happen in the next chapter.
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  3. Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2010
    star 4
    In general, I like to keep my chapters 2000 - 3000 words, especially if it's a first chapter. Anything more and the reader can get bored. And with long chapters, I find people forget what they were going to comment on in the 1st 1000 words by the time they get to the end, so longer chapters rarely means longer comments, in fact, it does the opposite.
  4. Darth_Kiryan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2009
    star 4
    Usually this would depend on the writer, and even the average reader/reviewer. Sometimes a small intro chapter of about 2000-3000 words is good. But i usually like writing 5000-10000 words on most successive chapters.

    Of course, i haven't written anything in a few years. But that was always the advice i received from various fanfic writers
  5. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    Thanks for the feedback guys. My fear, too, is that the reader will get bored.
  6. Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    I vary the length of my chapters. I try not to go under 1,000 or over 5,000, but sometimes it makes sense to cut it off earlier or later. Like, if there is a significant change that happens in that chapter, and/or you end it with a highly emotional charge, it doesn't matter if it's shorter (I've posted chapters that were only 745 words that were so joltingly emotional that to put more in there would be superfluous). On the other hand, certain scenes belong together, and writing a chapter with several scenes can easily go over 5,000 words.
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  7. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    This is actually one scene with the same two characters from start to finish. I might be too liberal with my descriptions and dialogue.
    Last edited by Sable_Hart, Nov 18, 2012
  8. JediMara77 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2004
    star 4
    Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston recommend short chapters of about 2500 words. Apparently that's ideal reading length for commutes and reading before bed. And when you write shorter chapters, it makes the reader want to read more.

    In my latest novel, I'm actively trying to follow that rule, although my chapters often end up longer. :p
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  9. CmdrMitthrawnuruodo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2000
    star 6
    Usually my chapters are about that long. Occasionally I'll write one twice as long but break it up into two postings for reader sanity.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  10. mavjade It's so Fluffy Fanfic & New Movies Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2005
    star 5
    I personally don't like to read chapters that are too long, I prefer ones that are 1,500 to 2,000, but 2,500 is doable. I'm kinda ADD and anything longer than that I space out and don't really read it. Shorter chapters allow me to finish that section then my mind can wonder for a bit and then I can go back. If I try in the middle of a chapter, it doesn't really work for me.
  11. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    I vary my chapter length, but overall, they tend to be between two-three pages in length. I base my chapters on scenes, and each scene has its own chapter. If I am writing a longer piece, I will sometimes have two scenes per chapter, but those scenes will be related in some way. Otherwise, I still separate my story by scenes. In essence, it's akin to the stage, and having a theater background, it's a practice that works best for me.
  12. Skywalker_T-65 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2009
    star 6
    Most of mine hit the 2,500-3,000 word mark. Occasionally I'll write something up to 5k words, but that's very rare.
  13. Mechalich Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    While I'm personnally of the opinion that a chapter should be as long as it needs to be, there is a point about averages versus the length of the work. For example, if your novel is going to be around 100,000 words, which is certainly in the average range for Star Wars, than a 10,000 word chapter would be one tenth of the novel, and if they were all that size you'd have only ten chapters. Perhaps that fits what you're doing perhaps it does not, but it's something to be aware of, as would any outcome that turns up.
  14. Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    I'm not ADD, but sometimes when i'm low on time (reading something because I liked previous chapters but am about to go to work or something), it's hard to leave and come back to it. Unlike books that you hold in your hand, you cannot put a marker on what you've read so far on that posting. So, yeah, longer chapters can be somewhat of a deterrent, which is why I try to avoid having them. One or two in a story that has already been going on for a few months and already has a loyal readership isn't that catastrophic though (the trick is to get that loyal readership :p).

    The part I bolded in Mechalich's quote is what I was saying in my original post. Sometimes less is more when there is some significant (i.e. highly emotional content &/or huge plot twist) happening... something that can or should stand on its own within the story.

    Also, I tend to make a short prologue at the beginning of a story that will be long, just to grab the readers' attention and give them a sense of the story's overall tone (though on a long story, I tend to give underlying meaning to the surface plot -- The Bond being a good example, as the prologue shows the bond between Anakin and Qui-Gon and you see it growing bit by bit through the proceeding chapters, but there is a hint of another bond as well).

    Sometimes it is necessary to be liberal with descriptions and dialogue. How two characters interact with each other can be very important. Even if something seems incidental, sometimes those small things can become significant in a later scene. In one of my stories, I have Obi-Wan looking at his cut-off padawan braid in one scene, and it will later lead to a poignant scene between him and Padme.
  15. Skywalker_T-65 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 19, 2009
    star 6
    Then of course you get people who write monster 90k word chapters (yes, I have seen that). :p


    In my case though, I tend to write what feels right length wise. Most often that is the 2,500-3k word range.
  16. Mayla Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 4, 2012
    star 1
    Most of my chapters end up being about 4,000 words. Not because I'm being strict with myself... they just always seem to reach natural stopping points around that mark.

    I've read stories that had like 20-page chapters, and didn't get bored; it depends on how much action is in the story, since action-filled chapters feel like they go by quicker. The only real issue I've experienced is convenience; even if I'm completely hooked and am willing to keep reading until the end of the book, I'm still going to have to eat, sleep, go to work, etc. at some point.
  17. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    If you have massive chapters, with multiple scenes per chapter, take a cue from theater. Make that chapter an act, and each scene a chapter.
    Alexis_Wingstar, Bale and benknobi1 like this.
  18. Bale Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 9, 2005
    star 4
    I tend to write and prefer shorter chapters, 1800-2500.
  19. Goodwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    As others have said, chapter length is really down to personal preference. My habit is to only have a chapter break when a major aspect of the plot takes place. This is done for two reasons: one, to give the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) the chance to advance the last plot point, and two, to give the reader a sense of anticipation for what is to come. While this tends to lend itself to longer chapters in relation to the length of the work, I see it not unlike an episode of a television show. Typically, a show will cut to commercial at a specific point in order to build dramatic tension, for example at "We're In Trouble Now" or "The Big Reversal" (this can apply regardless of the show's airtime).

    Thus far, it seems to work for me. My original novel is over 120,000 words, but it only has twenty-four chapters as well as a small prologue and an even shorter epilogue.
  20. Lady_Misty Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 21, 2007
    star 4
    I try to do at least 1000 words per chapter.

    I do enjoy long chapters but if it's 15000+ then it becomes tedious to read.


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  21. Goodwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    My chapters aren't quite that long, but to help break up such seemingly huge blocks of text, I employ the double line break to separate out one scene from another. This is sometimes broken up by a trio of center-aligned em dashes or asterisks, especially if said break takes place at the bottom of a formatted page (or if the work is published on an Internet message board).
  22. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    I usually do 1,000 to 2,000 words. With people rading on the computer, attention spans are shorter.
  23. Goodwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    I'm sorry, but I don't buy the "short attention span" argument at all.

    A reader worth having is a reader who will stick with your work, but it's a two-way street; you also have to provide content that is worth reading. There are very few novels and stories that I've ever given up on once started, and the reasons for quitting the ones I have done is exactly that: they were boring and just dragged on seemingly without purpose. It had nothing at all to do with chapter length.
    Last edited by Goodwood, Mar 4, 2013
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  24. MasterGhandalf Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2009
    star 2
    My general rule-of-thumb is to never write chapters that are shorter than 2000 words, with most falling into the 2000-3000 area. Longest I've ever written was nearly 8000, and climactic chapters tend to be longer than others. Prologues/epilogues are usually shorter, less than 1000.
  25. YodaKenobi VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    May 27, 2003
    star 6
    I try and shoot for 20,000 words. People love that.
    Last edited by YodaKenobi, Apr 3, 2013
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