When do I know when to move to the next chapter?

by Joaquin
(Philippines)

Question: I'm been writing a draft for my novel in a journal that I keep to myself for the past months and looking back on the pages I notice some chapters are longer than others. Is there a way for us to know when to finish the chapter and then move on to the next? I get there's the cliffhangers, characters making a move, the chapter ending with a one liner etc. but after reading through a few other novels I notice it doesn't need to end like that. So again, how do we know when to stop?


Answer: I have two guidelines regarding chapter lengths.

1. A chapter should end at the resolution of an event. The event should resolve in a way that sets the stage for the next event, so that the reader is left wondering what will happen next and inclined to read one more chapter to find out. This creates the "I couldn't put it down" effect.

Of course, not every novel is plot-driven in this way. It depends on the genre and whether other factors hold the reader's focus (e.g. style and voice).

2. As with short stories, a chapter should be a length that can be read comfortably in one sitting. Of course, this depends somewhat on the genre. Children's books need shorter chapters than adult literary fiction, etc.

However, don't feel that every chapter must be the same length. As with sentence length, variety prevents monotony.

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