I know I saw a discussion on this topic, only I can't find it now.
So sorry but I'll have to pose my own question concerning chapter lengths.
I prefer to read and write fairly short chapters--
My average chapter is approximately 2,000 words but sometimes less.
What are your opinions on chapter length?
I set the scene and try to have it (the chapter) critical to the story and the characters.
There's a beginning, middle and end to them. Like a microcosim of the story itself.
something of interest at the end--cliff hanger--a surprise--something to keep the reader turning the page or wanting to.
But can a chapter say what I want it to say if it's under 1,000 words?
Your thoughts?

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Hi Carole
I think it just depends on what works for the book you're writing. Generally, like you, I like short chapters. In my Good Thief books, I guess my typical chapter is between 2000 - 3000 words, but in the standalone I'm working on at the moment, a lot of the chapters are shorter. I don't see why chapters with less than 1000 words can't work well. In the next Good Thief book, I'm thinking of having a chapter that only has 2 words in it (though I might wimp out nearer the time...)
thanks Chris!
Just driving myself nuts at the moment--getting ready for final draft--beginning of I mean!
I agree--with you really. I just was afraid it might read like a prologue this very short chapter (opening).
But I see your point.
And don't wimp out! that sounds like a great idea! why not rock the genre a little?! I know i can be brave as a bystander saying that, but I mean it.
again thanks!
I've seen chapters run from four or five pages consistently (Robert B. Parker) to over twenty pages (Richard Price in FREEDOMLAND) to sometimes less than a page (S.J. Rozan). It depends on how you're structuring the narrative. I write in scenes, so each chapter is a scene, which means my chaters may run from 1,000 words (or even a little under) to 5,000 or so; the average has varied quite a bit from story to story.

I have read--and agree--that varied chapter lengths are a good way to go. All chapters of the same length can create the same effect as all sentences or all paragraphs of the same length, which is put the reader on autopilot. Never a good thing.
thanks--that makes a lot of sense.
I suppose it could be boring if they're all the same.
I agree about the scene--however long that is.
But I was afraid of the one short, short chapter being the first--so i added to it--probably will go with that now as I attempt my final draft.
thanks Dana!
I write fairly long chapters (15 to 22 typed pages) in my series, and much shorter ones in two other novels. It depends on the book and on your audience. Slower readers like shorter chapters. Shorter chapters can also move the action faster for readers who like to rush through. Sounds like a contradiction, but isn't really. It has to do with leisure time and attention span.
As for the chapter itself: I agree that each chapter should have its own subject and/or fit smoothly into the overall organization of the book. It is possible and sometimes desirable to have chapters of very uneven length.
great answer and I appreciate it.
no I don't think it's a contradiction I know what you mean. It's a depend kind of thing--people vary and the circumstance wherein they're reading.
And it's interesting that you too agree on varying lengths.
Thanks so much very grateful!
I have a short attention span and like reading (and writing) short chapters. I am equally comfortable reading long chapters. The book I'm working on at the moment has several chapters of about 200 words. Most are 500-1000 I guess. On the other hand, one chapter has several thousand. I think chapters should be whatever length the book calls for and should not be stressed over - I didn't actually check any chapter length until I read your question - it's not something that I worry about. On the other hand, I DO worry that all of those words in all of those chapters are pure unadulterated shite :o)
shite! so can connect with that word.
I know! here I am discussing things like this as if I really know my work is just simply too, too wonderful and it'll be grabbed up as the Agent turns to her pa and says, "This is the ms I've been waiting all of my working life to read, Diane! Aren't we lucky? What's the author's name? Quick! Let me phone her! I don't want this literary genius getting away!"
sorry for the frivolity--just put in a tough day writing! so i go a little nutso.
seriously, thank you Donna.
Yes, I guess the count can vary. not too sure my attention span is greater than a gnat's by the way!
good luck with your work, and it isn't shite! MINE probably is!
I read a wonderful book years ago: Blue by Geraldine Rahmani that had one-word chapters that worked just beautifully. Of course, Geraldine also split the page in various ways so that each character had a portion of the page. Some chapters had two characters, one at the top of the page, the other at the bottom, while other chapters had three characters.
In short, rules are for sissies. Do what feels right to you and your book ;-)
yeah! cool, Grant!
Rules are for sissies!
I'm gonna do my own thing.
What an interesting book that is! wow.
thanks, I feel energized already!
As long as it needs to be (though I do like the short chapters of about 2000, sometimes as short as 1300 or as long as 3000 if the scene dictates it.)

And I love to end on a cliff-hanger or a "wait, what the heck's going on now?" moment. =)
me too!
cliff hangars are cool! I remember reading Boys from Brazil at my secretarial job (100's of years ago) and my hand shook as I turned the page (the scene with the dogs_? whoah! phew.
agree with you, Clair--!


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