Write like a professional, get the chapters right

By getting the word count right. How?

Scene by scene.

I’ve written in the past about the word count for books but a book is made up of chapters. And chapters are made up of scenes. 

A mixture of really short and really long chapters may give your reader a case of whiplash. Make sure that doesn’t happen. 

There is nothing wrong with varying chapter length or writing a book with all short chapters, but I’d avoid the extreme. Scenes set the pace and like stepping stones lead your reader through the book. 

Randy Ingermanson on Advanced Fiction Writing, reminds us to think SCENES not CHAPTERS.

Controlling Chapter Lengths in Your Novel

Things from his post I want to remember:

  • Chapters are stepping stones to take the reader through your book.
  • Chapters consist and are controlled by SCENES.
  • Varying scene length is okay. But be consistent.
  • A good average word count for a scene is 1000-1500.
    • A little more or a little less the Keyword is average.
  • A good scene count for a chapter is driven by the scenes.
  • My writing style dictates the word count for scenes.
  • Chapter word count is determined by the number of chapters in the book.
    • 70,000 ÷ 3,000 = 23 chapters
    • 70,000 ÷ 2,000 = 28 chapters
    • ? ÷? =? chapters (you do the math.)
  • Don’t pad a scene with words just for the sake of the count.
  • Only add words to a scene that move the story forward.

Be sure and click on Randy’s link above and read his article. He has lots more to say about writing scenes that add up to a book.

Do you think in scenes when writing a chapter?

What do you think is a good length for a chapter?

Do you write the scenes first and then divide up into chapters?

Have a tip about finding that chapter/scene balance? Do share.

 

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27 thoughts on “Write like a professional, get the chapters right

  1. Some writers have a chapter for each scene. I’m not sure if I could drab out a scene that long or be content with having chapters that short. Like you, I like my chapter somewhere around 3000 words. Also like you, I prefer my scenes to be between 1000 and 1500 words, although I’ve written a few just under 1000 and a couple up to 2000.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My chapters are of variable length, depending on the chapter’s subject. Some last 6 pages, the average would be of 10-12, but I had 35 pages chapters too, which couldn’t be split into more, because it would have broken story flow.

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  3. Very timely post now that I’m into final edits of my memoir. It’s currently in the hands of another beta reader, but I am aware of continuity of scenes and chapter length. My word count stands at about 55,000 now, but I have 40 chapters, which doesn’t mesh with the formula I see here. Just a wild guess, but I think my chapter length is more like 1000-1500 words. My goal is building tension and keeping momentum as my character transforms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some authors who write books in shorter chapters. I think it’s important to stay true to your flow. A formula is just a rule of thumb not something written in blood. Do you. 🙂

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  4. When I am writing chapters I usually choose a number and don’t stop until I have reached it. Stephen King works by writi 2,000 words a day and this morning I surpassed that. The way I do it, is to choose a number and write until I reach that page number, finishing chapters on cliffhangers is a bit of a cliche, or so I believe anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve read many books past two years, But never thought of chapters and scenes. I look at a page and internally complain, I don’t like the spacing of lines, sometimes I read the same line more than once which irritates me. I feel they can leave a bit more space between the lines.
    Are they supposed to have a certain number of lines on a page?
    I know all this sounds silly!

    Liked by 1 person

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