Musings on Chapters

So one of those Big Questions I’m having when it comes to writing and the technical details of composing an actual book is: how long should chapters be?

In the current rough draft of my book, the chapters typically average somewhere between three and four thousand words. Some are five thousand, give or take a few dozen words. At the end of NaNoWriMo I had just over fifty thousand words and fourteen and a half chapters.

What I can’t figure out is whether that’s too long or too short. Okay, too short is probably not something to worry about in the end because I don’t know anyone that goes “huh, what a short chapter!” in any negative sense. Apart from maybe Boyfriend, but he’s odd.

I picked up a book yesterday that I’ve had on hiatus for a while because the story started boring me. Or the characters did. Or both, who knows. Anyway, so I was reading along and I decided I needed a break soon so I checked how long the chapter was (I have a slight issue with OCD when it comes to leaving books in the middle of a chapter). It was over 50 pages long.

To me, that’s insane.

And this is young adult fiction, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t really like overly long chapters. One of the reasons being, as I mentioned, about being able to put the book down and take a break without losing my flow. I don’t like chapters that go on for too long with far too many things happening at once. In some books that can add a sense of excitement and urgency but you have to be talented to be able to do that. Really talented. For a lot of books I find it just bogs down the fluency of the story and I become overwhelmed with all the words and the things and the words(!).

Ideally chapters shouldn’t exceed 20 pages of a standard-sized novel for me. I think 5000 words is around 14 pages in a novel format, though I’m not sure. So for my own preference, my novel should be decently paced (in terms of chapters at least) once it’s finished.

But that’s not helpful. Hopefully other people than me will read this book, right?

So when you’re reading a book, how do you feel about chapters? How long or how short is ideal for you and why? And if it doesn’t matter to you, why not? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m simply curious.

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