How Long is a Piece of Str…I Mean a Chapter

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Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash

A while ago I got a negative comment on one of my books. The reader didn’t like the fact that I tend to write short chapters.

It’s part of my style, and when I try to change it, I’m pretty sure I don’t produce my best work.

They’re the only person to ever comment on it.


How Long Should A Chapter Be?

A quick search of the internet shows that chapter length “should” be between 3,000 and 5,000 words. My chapters are shorter than this.

But other advice will say that it doesn’t matter, there’s no rule. Chapters can be whatever length they need to be.

So, let’s drill down on that further, because the real question is not how long your chapter should be but when you should end it.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Two Schools of Thought

I’ve found two schools of thought on this.

  1. Each chapter should be a self-contained mini story, a nice bite-sized chunk of book so that readers have a good place to stop.
  2. Each chapter should end with a tiny bit of suspense so readers are encouraged to keep reading.

There’s pros and cons to each approach, and you might actually mix them in the same book. I personally lean towards 2. “I didn’t get enough sleep because of your book” is, in my mind, one of the highest compliments a writer can received.

But some readers really do like to be able to split a book into chunks. One thing to consider is having a good break point every X chapters, depending on how long your chapters tend to be. This might be formalized as a “Part” or “Book” or left informal.

Either way, there are no rules on this and anyone who tells you to measure your chapters carefully by word and page is probably wrong. (That said, some people find this a great way to get their first book one).

Written by

Freelance writer, freelance editor, novelist and short story writer. Jack of many trades.

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