Book chapters

by Stephanie
(Lakeport, California US)

Question: I would like to know what is acceptable when writing a book for chapter length. My book is about Novella length. I have some chapters that are less than one page long I have an instance where there are two chapters on one page. I think my average is 1 1/2-3 chapters every three or so pages. Am I making a mistake when figuring what my chapter length should be? When writing, it feels right, but when reading all of the how-to's in book writing, it doesn't seem to be the average. It appears that most books have a few pages or more per chapter. Easily put, is this too short?

Answer: There are no hard rules about chapter length. Children's books generally have shorter chapters than adult books, to seem less daunting to reluctant readers. But for adult books, it's largely a question of individual writers' styles.

Some authors write tersely, with one event per chapter and not a lot of description. Other writers include two or more events per chapter with more preamble and follow-up. And some writers vary their chapter length.

That said, it sounds like your chapters are extremely short in comparison to most. As with short stories, a chapter can be anywhere from 1,000 to 15,000 words. If you are double-spacing your manuscript, that would be between 4 and 60 pages. A one page chapter is something you could have occasionally, but if all your chapters are that short, the book would either be very short or it would have a huge number of chapters. The rhythm would be rather staccato. You would also have a lot of blank space to mark chapter breaks (which is more costly).

Some other guidelines for chapter length are...

1. A chapter should be a length that can be comfortably read in one sitting.

2. A chapter should contain at least one event -- that is, a significant change or development in the story that affects everything going forward.

3. A chapter should leave the reader wanting to know what will happen next as a result of what just happened.

Best of luck.

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