Saturday, August 14, 2010

What's your Chapter 'Comfort Zone'?

I recently finished the first edit of my novel (also known as its new working title Trouble in the Gene Pool. Woot!), and included in these edits was finding out where I wanted to break the pages into chapters. This may sound backwards to a lot of you. Maybe you outline the story with chapters before you start so you know where you want to end with each one or even if you don’t outline at all you may still have a feeling for what your chapters are once you get started. But before NaNoWriMo I never wrote a story long enough to need chapters, so this is new territory for me. I just wrote how I knew.

I don’t know if this is normal or not, (because most of the things I do aren’t), but I happened to have had a book from the library at the time so I counted the words on one page then counted the pages. By multiplying the number of words by the number of pages it gave me a general idea of how many words were in the chapter, which turned out to be around 2000-2500 I believe. (That’s how you know I like writing. It makes me do math and I don’t mind.) This book was a new Young Adult that I heard about in one of the library’s newsletters. Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines I think was the one, which was a good book. But I digress. I kept that in mind while I separated my words into sections, looking for that perfect spot to stop or leave a little suspense. I ended up around the 2500-3000 range a lot.

I realize that chapters are going to be different for every book. Books for younger kids may only have a couple pages per chapter and thicker young adult books could be 10-15 pages long. What’s average for you? Is there a certain amount of words or number of pages you go for as you’re writing? As a reader, do you ever think a chapter is too short or too long? What’s your chapter ‘bull’s eye’?


  1. This is tricky. I tend to take a slightly haphazard approach with splitting into chapters while I work - I usually have places where I know I want a chapter break because it's supposed to be a hook or cliffhanger. The length question is a little more difficult - I don't worry about too long or too short in general but I tend to fuss over trying to get all chapters roughly the same length. I'm trying to break myself of that tendency. :)

  2. That's where I got hung up. I have breaks where I use another character so I thought I would use them to help me find my chapters but some are only a page or so long. I decided that I needed a number so I woudn't make chapters too much longer or shorter than one another. I guess I'm kind of where you're at. Lol.

  3. I also love using breaks within chapters when I need to shift the scene or perspective, dividing them with an asterisk or Roman numerals.

  4. I like the little squigly line like this. ~~~ Not sure what those are called but it does the trick for me.