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?

Views: 99

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

It's turning out that these chapters are actually more contained and less artificial. I like to weave symbolism/metaphors in my work and in this particular book, the beginning of the chapters gets tied into the end. So I don't think that I can split a chapter in two.

Your comment reminds me of the organization of the Bible. Within each book, there was originally no chapters or numbered verses. That was a convention that was added later for easier reference.
What I meant was, sometimes authors allow a scene to spill into the next chapter. If my memory is correct, it's a technique Mario Puzo used in The Godfather. James Patterson does it a lot, too. Just a thought. Of course, you know what feels best for your book.
I also like short chapters (and tend to write them), but it depends on the book. OTOH, I HATE it when there are one or two page chapters peppered into a novel that otherwise has 20 to 30 page chapters. It rarely works and often feels schticky. If you're switching POVs, it might make sense to vary the chapter lengths according to who's story is being told. I dunno. It's one of those either it works or it doesn't kinda deals.
I tend towards short chapters as well. In THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY, Book One, my chapters are, for the most part, quick paced. The story has to govern the length of the chapters. I personally don't think there's any need to establish a specific length or even be consistent as long as the chapter ends in a logical point. I like to leave danglers at the end of each chapter to solicit the reader to keep reading. My books have all been dubbed "fast reads" because they have lots of jumps from scene to scene in short chapters. Don't even worry about the length. Just keep the plot flowing and you'll be fine. This is one of those technical points that can be overinterpreted.
It isn't short chapters that bother me.
Like you said, Sandra, they often punctuate a story and can get shorter as the action intensifies. Case in point- one of my favorite books, In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson. There were two distinct story threads that alternated and the chapter length decreased as the stories came to a conclusion.
What bothers me are very LONG chapters. I read mostly before falling asleep, and prefer putting my book down at the end of a chapter. ("Bloody hell! This chapter goes on for 8 more pages!")
Merlot, I would like to apologize, and you know why!

What about no chapters? Some divide the book by days, with little breaks/switches throughout chapters. How does that work for you?
I'm in the dislike very short chapter category. One or two pages? It just seems to break up the flow for me.

Knowing that everything out there is merely opinion, I was once told by an agent that my chapters were too long and that I should be aiming for 12 pages per chapter. That length seems to work well for me as a writer, but I don't think it's something set in stone. Shorter chapters work too, but I'm just not really into 1 or 2 page chapters.
When I was on the road to getting published, I had a critique done on my manuscript by a well-known mystery writer. She suggested that it was better for a beginning author to make her chapters similar lengths, so that the readers could get used to her writing style. Because you're already an established author, I would think it wouldn't be a concern. The chapter's finished when it finishes.
I'm in the gnat camp :). Otherwise, whatever length is necessary to tell the story is fine by me. I do prefer division by chapters rather than days though.
Chapter breaks are tough for me, because in my first draft, I don't usually have any, just scene breaks. I go through in rewrites and try to insert them (a) at a consistent number of pages; and (b) where it makes sense. When in doubt, (b) prevails.

However, I'm reading a book right now (Stephen Booth's ONE LAST BREATH) where there are some short chapters and some much longer ones. Doesn't bug me.
Trying to keep regular chapter lengths is actually screwing me up. I think in scenes, so I'm finding I'm trying to shove scenes into chapters and some of them want to be longer or shorter than I'm stretching them into.

So, I've giving up on chapters and just focusing on the scenes. Then I can go back and see how best to break it down.
That's what I'm talking about. Scenes are the building blocks, not chapters.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service