Writerly Post Wednesday: Chapter Length — How Long Is Too Long?

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Writerly Post Wednesday is a weekly segment where I talk about everything writing.

Hello, all, on this fine wintry Wednesday.

Today I’m opening up the glorious topic of chapter lengths, which can divide many readers and writers alike.

Funnily enough, I used to struggle to make my chapters long. I thought that having long chapters was so cool and professional . . . but as I’ve grown a bit more in writing, I realize that’s just not true at all. Essentially, I don’t believe that chapter length matters much at all, but I would love to hear your opinions on the matter. Below, there’s a poll you can answer!

With the recent novel that I’m working on, I’ve found that my chapters are long. The only problem is that I don’t know where to split them. I feel like I’ve ended them in the right place, but they’re just so massive. Take this, for example: Chapter One is 8,467 words; Chapter Two is a whopping 11,793 words; Chapter Three is 11,149 words. In this novel, though, there are a lot of “breaks” as it switches point of views.

In another of my novels, The Sweetest Sorrows of Ava Hale, there are no chapters at all. I mean, in the earlier versions of the draft I split it up into chapters because it was just easier to post on my Wattpad, but as I wrote subsequent drafts, I realized that made no sense. The novel is written as a letter — and letters don’t have chapters. So essentially there’s just one 59k chapter.

I must be crazy, yes?

Probably. Most likely. Well, yes, I am. So today I am asking you the question: How long of a chapter would you be willing to read? And which do you prefer, long or short?

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Short chapters —

Short chapters can be good in keeping a novel snappy and fast-paced, quick and easy to read. However, if the chapters are too short, then the novel might come across as clipped and disjointed. I love short chapters. But I also love long chapters, too. Sometimes it’s good to have a mixture of both, you know? It keeps the novel fast-paced and interesting, yet also remains evenly paced, not coming across as rushed.

Long chapters —

At first glance, long chapters used to make me cringe. I don’t even know why, really, perhaps it was just because the size of the chapter was daunting. Now I love reading long chapters. What changed? I think maybe I just grew used to them. But as long as the words in the chapter are interesting enough . . . what does it matter how long the chapter is??

 What are your thoughts of chapter length? Let me know and answer the poll!

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14 thoughts on “Writerly Post Wednesday: Chapter Length — How Long Is Too Long?

  1. I’m definitely a short chapter kind of gal. 1) It’s easier to say “just one more chapter” and end up reading half the book. 2) I have a very short attention span. I think also the genre makes a difference – I’ve found that speculative fiction chapters are often longer than contemporary. From a writing point of view, I change as well – in Wanderland my chapters are about 3k, while in my contemps they’re between 1.5 and 2.5 (mostly…). As long as there are natural breaks, though, I don’t think it really matters, and you should always do what feels right for the story :)

    • YES! Short chapters can be very effective in hooking a reader in, methinks. Yeah, I’ve noticed that contemporary novels (some, anyway) can actually have really short chapters. Mine’s a high fantasy, so I think it kind of needs longer chapters. (That’s how I’m justifying it, anyway… ;) )

  2. If your WIP is fairly short, then you could probably turn those insanely long chapters into parts. Just something to consider :).

    I like reading short chapters better because I can better manage my reading time. Sometimes I have to stop abruptly because I have to go somewhere or my parents want me to do something, and it’s always better for me to stop reading at the end of a chapter. Short chapters allow me to do that. I’m reading Pride and Prejudice right now, and I’m so glad that it has short chapters because most classics don’t.

    Also, are my eyes tricking me, or did you just gain 530 followers via WordPress over the past few weeks? I feel like my eyes tricked me. They do that a lot…But if you did, congratulations!

    • That’s a good idea — I’ll definitely consider that. At the moment I don’t know how long it’s gonna be. xD That’s so true about managing reading time — and massively helpful when you only want to read a small amount of the novel because of restricted time. As for the followers… I think that’s screwing up! I swear I don’t have that many followers! O.o

  3. I prefer short chapters when reading, easier to say just one more chapter and whatnot. So when writing I try and keep my chapters fairly short but at the same time I kinda just do what feels natural. In my main series the chapters tend to be anywhere from 3k to 8 or 9 thousand, so I just break it up where it feels right.
    However when reading while I do like short chapters I feel like a switch in POV can also be a good point to stop reading at so then long chapters aren’t such a big deal. =)

    • Usually for me chapter lengths vary completely on the novel. I totally understand what you mean by whatever feels right — which is why I’m hesitant to split my novel up further because it just doesn’t feel right. Thanks for your opinion! :)

  4. To be honest I feel like chapter length shouldn’t matter, and it didn’t as much before I started blogging. Some books use chapters well – switching POV, as a letter like you said, or with chapters getting smaller/longer as the book goes on as some form of writing technique. That being said, I do find these days that I prefer shorter chapters – C Clare is one I always think, “Love, just end the chapter already!” When I’m reading I like to finish the chapter before bed, so that can cause some problems, “Just one more chapter” doesn’t work because each chapter takes half an hour to read!

    R x

  5. I really like your writerly wednesday posts, by the way. x) ANYWAY: so I voted short. Absolutely short. Like, long chapters terrify me. And often times I’m like, “Oh I’ll just read a quick chapter” so I want the chapters to be good for that. Or I just don’t bother. I hate pausing in middle of chapters. :( Maybe I’m a bit OCD like that…

    I also agree with above commentor there ^^. Cassandra Clare, heh, her chapters are too long. >_<

  6. I think it really depends on the book and the format of it. I agree with what you said about The Sweetest Sorrows of Ava Hale being one giant chapter because it is a letter. When I write in multiple point of views, I will only have one character be the POV for each chapter they switch off because I feel like I’m giving one more attention than another. But chapters are just smaller stories combined to make one big one. However long it takes to get that small story across in the perfect length.

    • The format of the story certainly does play a bit role in dictating how long the chapters are, that’s very true! Recently I read Writing Clementine by Katie Gordon, which was written as diary entries, so naturally the chapters were fairly short. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter what length the chapters are — as long as it works with the story. :)

  7. Haha, only just got around to reading this one xD I honestly like the longer chapters because it shows more detail to the worldbuilding as such – keep in mind fantasy is the prominent read here – but my books on the other hand tend to be short. I struggle to hit 1k words sometimes. That said, I do have a chapter that is 4 words. Yes. Four.

    • Well, better late than never! :P FOUR WORDS!? Ha ha, that’s actually pretty cool. I mean, a really short chapter like that could be quite effective.

      I think the genre of the story matters a lot — high fantasies are naturally going to have longer chapters than, say, contemporaries, I think, just because there’s a lot more to fit in. Like said, worldbuilding can take up quite a bit of words. :)

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