Chapter Length

One of the discussions that I see online from newbie writers all the time starts with the following question: How long is a chapter? To put it gently, a chapter is as long as it needs to be for your story. Before you continue with a barrage of similarly worded questions, stop for a moment and think of the stories that you have read. James Patterson has mere paragraphs for chapters. J.K. Rowling has several pages. Why? Because it works for the story they are telling. Patterson writes thrillers so to leave each scene cut off by the start of a new chapter makes the book feel more fast-paced and that need to devour the entire book in one sitting. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is geared towards a young audience so the chapters are longer due to taking the time for details and explanations.

In my novel The Dragonscale, the first chapter is 14,923 words. The second is 7,580. The third 3,606. The shortest chapter is barely over 1,500 words. That’s a drastic difference of chapter lengths in just one novel of 72,528 words. It’s written in Third Person Omniscient with four main character POVs (point of views) and falls heavily under the Fantasy genre.

In my short story Hazardous, one of the chapters is just barely over 1,000 words. If the story had called for it, each chapter could have been 500 words or less each to make up the 5,000 word book. However, the story called for longer chapters and as such, it ended up having only four.

The main point behind this post is this: stop researching every little thing, stop pulling questions out of thin air, stop spending years building a world you still haven’t written in. Stop everything and just sit down and write the story. You can only tell if it’s terrible after you’ve written the first draft.

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