How Long Should a Fiction Book Chapter Be?
Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty
I know of some authors who religiously cut or add words to chapters in an effort to make them all as close to the same word count as possible. Your chapters don’t have to have the same word count. You need to decide how long you want each chapter to be, then give yourself some leeway and try to stick to that limit. This doesn’t have to interfere with your creativity, though.
For example, I write my entire book without chapters. Once it’s finished, I do a total word count, then split that word count into ‘x many’ chapters. This leaves me with a word count per chapter, and I can then split my book into chapters accordingly. However, it doesn’t always work out that way, so some chapters end up being longer than others in order to keep the flow and have a strong ending for each one. That’s okay – I give myself a leeway of about 1000 words per chapter, and, at times, I even break that ‘rule’ where necessary and some chapters end up much shorter or longer than others.
There is no set rule as to how long each chapter should be, and no rule that says chapters need to be the same or similar lengths. However, having one chapter of five hundred words and another of five thousand words tends to break the reader’s concentration and feels silly to me, almost as if the writer was simply too lazy to structure them consistently. There are very few stories in which there’s a good reason to do this and in which doing so adds value to the story.
One example in which every other chapter was super short is Parasite Positive by Scott Westerfeld. In this case, it was exceedingly well done and necessary – the story would have been boring if the short chapters had been much longer. As Westerfeld wrote it, however, every second chapter had a brief description of a specific virus and all the nasty things it can do to one. In his world and the situation his characters are in, adding this information into every other chapter enables the reader to grasp the characters’ actions and feel their fear. In this case, it needs to be brief, or it would break the story’s flow too much.
So try to keep chapters within at least a 1000- to 3000-word limit of each other, unless you have a good reason for not doing so.
I hope you’ve found this helpful!
When Lashlor Leaflin offers to escort Queen Narraki Dragonsbane to the Jeltar Woods, he’s unwittingly caught up in a magical adventure of the type he would rather not have.
The sorceress Assassa believes the Land of Ends to be rightfully hers, but King Lanaran refuses to hand over his crown. In retaliation, the sorceress conjures creatures of darkness to hunt the queen and end her life. Lashlor helps where he can, but it isn’t easy when the Guards of Ends who protect the queen believe him to be false.
A confrontation with Assassa will be the death of him, Lashlor is certain. However, the king insists on his help and it soon becomes apparent that he may have no choice.
Escorted by soldiers of Ends, Lashlor sets out to find an old flame, Rune Arcana, the only person who can help to remove the curse placed on the Queen of Ends. Lashlor believes that Rune currently resides in the Mountains of Eclador – a place from which no one has returned in all of recorded history. She could refuse his request. She could be dead. Lashlor and his companions could meet the same fate.
If they do not brave the mountains, however, Queen Narraki will remain in the form of a rabid creature of darkness… forever.
Forever is a long time, and King Lanaran fears the Wizard of Ends will not return. Ignoring Lashlor’s advice not to meddle with the curse, the king employs other magic users to attempt to undo the dark magic.
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Vanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.
Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.
Wizard of Ends, Book 1: 9 October 2014
Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature: 23 October 2014