How long should a chapter be?

by Lewis Yeates
(Salisbury)

Question: Hi, I'm struggling to decide when to change the chapter. I know it's when you change the subject but I seem to write 4 or 5 pages and then I'm writing a new chapter, but this doesn't seem long enough. Any thoughts on this .... ?


Answer: There are no rules on this subject. They vary with the author, genre, readership, and even within a book. However, here are some guidelines...

1. Like a short story, a chapter should be a length that can be comfortably read in one sitting. Of course, this varies with your readership, which is why books for children have shorter chapters than those for adults.

2. A chapter should end at a point where one event has been resolved, but resolved in a way that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next as a result. This creates the "page-turner" effect in which the reader is strongly tempted to read one more chapter. (Note: an event is a meaningful change that sends the character(s) in a new direction.)

Along this line, if your chapters feel too short (according to the first guideline), then consider having two events take place in a chapter, ending at the resolution of the second one.

3. If you are using multiple point-of-view characters, a chapter break is the best place to switch POV characters.

4. If you are writing in a genre or for an audience you are new to, consider looking at some recent bestsellers in the genre for ideas of what readers may expect.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero