How Long is Long Enough?: Chapter Lengths

Well I’m sick, and really gross, and basically just not in great shape, so I thought that in an effort to still be a productive member of society I would take my grossness and my sickness onto the interwebs.

You’re welcome.

Today is a pretty awesome day, though, since I got the first proof back of my projected cover design for Life of Gaia!  It needs a bit of tweaking, but I think I like it, and having it in black-and-white (and red,) staring back at me…  Well, let me just say it’s kind of a surreal experience.  Maybe you get used to that after awhile, but I hope not.  I got the email when I was in the depths of my self-loathing, hating my body for succumbing to this gross-making illness, and the cover was like a beacon of hope.  Things will get better, it said to me.  You won’t always be sick, and your furnaces will start working again soon, so your house isn’t an Icelandic igloo.  Take heart.

So that was nice, although you won’t get to see it until it’s all nice and perfect. ❤

For now, my question is this: how long do you, the average reader/writer, like your chapters to be?  I thought I was doing ok making mine an average of 3.5k to 4k, but, upon reflection, and actually printing them out, I’m wondering if that’s too long.  Do people prefer shorter chapters, things in bite-sized chunks?  Or, if you’re in the middle of things, do you not mind a longer chapter?  I mean, we’re not talking pages and pages and pages here, but…  If this were a writer workshop, my chapters would probably be 10 pages, 12 font, double-spaced.

Too long?  OK length?

There doesn’t really seem to be any consensus on a STANDARD length… which, I mean, is freeing, but also kind of open-ended… so, I mean, I just thought I would get everyone’s opinion.  Not that I’m planning to completely re-do my book just to suit everyone else, but…  Well, you know.  A well-informed writer is a better writer.


Here’s hoping that my next post will be one where I DIDN’T sneeze on my computer.  (Yeah, that happened.)



And this is just a picture I thought was extremely hilarious, although that could have been the fact that it was like 3AM when I first saw it… Nope, still funny.


10 thoughts on “How Long is Long Enough?: Chapter Lengths

  1. Excellent question. I think it depends on what you’re writing. Pacing is so important that a bad chapter break can kill it. I prefer my pacing to be fast but that doesn’t mean the story has extremely short chapters. Especially reading on a e-book reader now I don’t pay as much attention to it as I once did.

    Currently, I’m investigating the “Episodic” novel writing and I’m reading a few just to see how they break up their chapters and novels for that ‘serial’ effect. I’d like to post something on it as soon as I’ve finished my research.

    • Yeah, I mean, I tried to let it happen organically, but then I also tend to write more than less, so… I don’t know. I suppose if what’s happening is interesting, people won’t notice, but I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re slogging through pages and pages, you know?

      I’ll be very interested to read your post when you’ve finished it! =D Any and all help, you know. 🙂

  2. Ready for my long-winded opinion? Grab a cup of tea and settle in.

    Okay, so I’ve always been of the opinion that chapter length depends on what kind of book you’re writing. For example, with epic fantasy, you want long, languorous chapters that give the reader plenty of room to sit back, relax, and immerse themselves in the story. When I read epic fantasy, I want to be able to spend a good half hour reading and never hit a chapter break.

    Whereas with teen fiction, or children’s fiction … more fast-paced. Something like 2k-2.5k words per chapter is the length I’ve heard a lot, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do with the Imminent Danger books. I think children’s books are actually supposed to run even shorter than that — like, I think the early Harry Potter books were 1.5k ish per chapter?

    And then you can do the varying chapter lengths thing, but I think that’s usually for more modern books, like new adult and supernatural genres and so forth. Oh! And dystopian. Dystopians love varying chapter lengths.

    In conclusion, for a fantasy novel, 3-4k sounds decent to me. I haven’t read enough of Life of Gaia yet to really tell if it’s teen fantasy vs. adult fantasy … because if it’s teen fantasy, then maybe a bit shorter chapters? Teens like things more fast-paced, is my understanding.

    And thus concludes my rambling! Make of it what you will 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s supposed to be more YA-Fantasy oriented, so perhaps paring them down a bit would be a good idea. Which is kind of what I’ve been thinking anyway. But thanks for the long reply–you know I love’em! 🙂 It always assures me that someone out there is really considering what I’ve put forth, ha ha. This is all probably stuff I’ll take a cold, hard look at when the story has had its run on JukePop and I’m re-editing it for publishing, but it’s never too early to start making these kinds of calls, right?

  3. I have investigated this and found a lot of “as long as they need to be” answers. For my own enjoyment 3 to 3.5k seems to be the thing. I don’t like the Dan Brown length of 500 words, but I don’t like over 5k either. I do like to come to a conclusion of some kind at night when I am reading and the end of a chapter is where I want to be, so 3.5 works.

    Pacing is very important and I think I can get that under control with 3.5 in my work.

    I know there is no clear answer to this but it is an excellent question.

    • Right?! It just seems like one of those things you can keep debating and never REALLY have a solid answer, since so much of it really relies on A. personal preference, B. author preference, C. the story itself, and D. how it’s paced. Which means some kind of magical perfect chapter system that you have to strive for.

      MAN. Writing has fun new problems to hurdle over all the time. Never boring, that’s for sure. 🙂 But thanks for that!

  4. I think chapters need to be as long as they need to be. It depends on the type of book you’re writing, the pace of the story – a really fast-paced story will probably have shorter chapters than a more gently-paced one – and, sometimes, the age range of your readership. I’m used to reading MG books where the chapters can sometimes be as short as a page or two, and I’m now reading ‘The Goldfinch,’ wherein the chapters go on for years. But it works perfectly for the type of book ‘The Goldfinch’ is.

    In short: don’t stress about it. I find that, when I’m writing, the chapter length seems – usually – to dictate itself. The pace of the book sets out where the dramatic moments are, and the heartbeat of the book establishes itself without much input from me. If your chapters turn out to be different lengths, or you break up a few longer chapters with a short one-pager every so often, I think that could work fine too.

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s a great question!

    • That does seem to be the general consensus, actually, and I’m glad so many people took the time to respond, because at the time it seemed like an INCREDIBLY PRESSING QUESTION, and I was mildly panicky about it, but I’m going to take your ‘don’t stress’ note to heart, ha ha! I guess chapters have to happen organically, and theoretically the write can figure out when that is. I’ll give it a look-over in later editing.

      And sweet, MG! I haven’t read much MG since I was, well, in the middle grades, lol. But I should pick some up again, because I was very fond of it. 🙂 I think one of the best things that has come about in publishing recently is bridging the gap between the preconceived ‘ages’ of books so that adults can feel totally comfortable reading ‘younger aged’ books.
      (Kids probably shouldn’t read ‘adult’ books, but only because of, you know, the ‘adult’ stuff. Probably if you wanted to read your kid a book and just left out the sex and swearing you’d be OK.)

      ANYWAY, thanks for your thoughts. xD ❤

  5. To qualify my ‘Other’ vote, I don’t think it matters much up to a point. The reader needs to feel that progress is being made but by the same token, they have to be as long as they have to be.

    I use scene breaks within the chapters of my book. It gives the reader a sense of progression, a chance to take a breath and it gives them somewhere to park their bookmark if they don’t make it to the end of the chapter.

    To put this in context, my book is circa 85k with 24 Chapters.

    • Okay, okay, thanks for the numbers! My book is about 90k words, give or take, and 26 chapters, so I’m about in line with that.

      And I’m glad you mention scene breaks, since I’d almost forgotten about those as pertaining to the conversation! Page breaks are a great way to break things up without ending the chapter. How could I forget page breaks?!

      I feel better. xDD A little silly, but also better. Thank you. 🙂

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