Okay, a nerdy writerly question. In all of my nonfiction and fiction books, the length of my chapters have been somewhat consistent. In my current work-in-progress, the chapters are of substantial varying lengths (so far each chapter is in the POV of a different character). Writers, have you published anything with very inconsistent chapter lengths? Readers, have you come across something like this and was it annoying?

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There's only one thing that typically bothers the reader in me, those pesky bite-sized chapters that are a couple pages long. Save some trees and stop writing for people with the attention span of a gnat. Irregular chapter lengths don't bother me at all - I expect near the end of a book chapters will get shorter usually, because of the increased pace (depending on the type of book).
I don't mind what the lengths of chapters are, but I do really like short chapters. I'm one of those gnats :o) Duane Swierczynski's THE BLONDE had varying chapter lengths - most short, some VERY short. And I have just finished a brilliant book - Declan Burke's THE BIG O which has short chapters - varying the POV of the characters - and I loved both of those. I guess I have a short attention sp...oh, look at that, I have a hole in my skirt, I'd better sew...hmmmm...I fancy a biscuit. I wonder where I...now, what was I saying?
Yeah, I thought Duane did a good job in general with THE BLONDE and THE WHEELMAN, and in particular with the short, punchy chapters. Keeping the pages turning is never a bad thing.

I am working on a new book right now, and just finished the longest chapter to date, a seven-pager. I have a couple of very short, two-page chapters, but most are four to five. I'm about halfway through with Draft 1.0 so we'll see how the rest of the chapters stack up.
Congrats on the development of your novel. Isn't it great to be in the middle of writing a new book? I'm chomping on the bit to work on mine today but I have to take care of some other business. The writing is definitely the best part of this life.
LOL Donna! It's just that I really like to sink my teeth into something, you know, feel like I'm caught up and hooked with what's going on.

Chapter breaks stop the action.

Or (shudder, horror) they're those horrid ones that end with, "Little did I realize things were about to get much worse." AAAAHHHHHHHHHH. That stuff drives me nuts. I can forgive it once, maybe, just maybe, even a second time in a novel, but when that's the standard I start wondering how much of the book has been the author telling me to be nervous about what's coming without giving me a story.

John Rickards' THE DARKNESS INSIDE had shorter chapters and I loved that book. Anything can work... really the point is, if I really notice the chapter length then it's coming off more as a gimmick or device because I'm not completely lost in the book. The only time I should notice is when it's late at night and my eyes are burning but I just have to keep going and damn, how long is this chapter?

If you get to the end of a chapter in those circumstances and it says, "I had no idea how much I'd regret that decision" or something then it's really bloody annoying!
LOL! I read something like that recently--the murder didn't happen until chapter four or so, and each of the preceding chapter reminded you that the murder was still to come. Haven't read anything else by her.
Absolutely Sandra - anything that throws you out of a book is annoying and if you notice the chapter length then that's a bad sign. I REALLY hate those "Had I but known moments". One stuck with me from a book I read a couple of years ago because it was so bad. 6 or 8 characters were sitting eating in a restaurant and the protagonist was there. The last line of the chapter went something like "Someone was watching me with evil eyes across the table. I wish I'd been able to remember who it was, I could have solved the crime right there." Now, I'm sorry, but he remembered someone's evil eyes, just not who they belonged to? What were the eyes doing? Floating above the salt and pepper pots in a disembodied fashion? I closed the book and never opened it, or another written by that author, again.
Hilarious! In my circles there's a colloquialism--"don't give me that evil eye." Also, "stink eye."

One of my writing instructors, Doris Betts, told us to reduce the number of times we use "looked," "watched," "saw," etc. Not that active, unless we're using in the context of a stakeout or something like that. Instead go straight into the description of the item the character is seeing. That piece of advice, received years ago, is still helpful.
I'll be damned...you took writing from Doris Betts? Where? I knew her when she was at UNC. She was the only creative writing teacher there that didn't make me feel like an idiot for writing genre fiction.
I was in one of Doris's summer writing workshops in Colorado. She was awesome. I was blown away with her short stories and novels. When I think about it, many of her novels have a crime aspect to it--HEADING WEST and the last one on the Donner Party. She also told me to write to my strengths. All these pearls of wisdom--amazing that I can still remember them.

Since I didn't study writing in college, I got most of my guidance in university extension courses and intensive workshops. Dennis Etchinson, NVM Gonzalez, David Mura and more. Great writers and teachers. I've forgotten how important this kind of training is to a writer's long-term career.
I used to make my chapters between 12 and 20 pages long. For a very silly reason: that is about what I can churn out in a 2-week period and it isn't too long for my readers to give me feed-back on every 2 weeks.

The fact is that it doesn't matter. I think a chapter should be complete in itself, move the story forward and leave the reader wanting to go on. Alternating POVs is a great way of doing that because you have the reader impatient for both stories to move on. Having short chapters for one of the characters is entirely reasonable. I have seen this done effectively by a number of writers. Val McDermid, for example, alternated longer chapters for her detective team with very short chapters from the serial killer's POV.
ignat2 :(

Here's the way I look at it, Naomi: Scenes are organic; chapters are artificial. So, if you have a POV that goes on for twenty pages, you can break it into two or more consecutive chapters in order to match the other shorter ones. As a reader, that would work better for me.

As for saving trees, I think chapter breaks in the middle of pages are the perfect compromise. Talking about the published book, of course, and not the manuscript.


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