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.





Do you want to know how long to make a story?

Size matters.

Some say write until your done, but as with all things, there is a rule of thumb. And knowing where the goal-line is may be helpful.

Want to know the answer?

I do agree we should write until finished, however, goals and guidelines are helpful. And as usual, successful writers/bloggers come to the rescue. With the help of friends, you can take the guesswork out of the numbers. 


Flash Fiction?

Generally, unless restricted by rules of a publication or contest, the word count for Flash Fiction is under 1,000. If submitting to a specific publication be sure and check their requirements.

A Drabble?

A Drabble is exactly 100 words, not including the title. Writing 100 words is not as easy as you might think. Takes practice. Give it a try.

Short story?

A short story length generally falls somewhere between 1,500 and 4,000 words. As with flash fiction, if submitting to a specific publication, check their rules.

Novelette, Novela?

In our fast-paced world, the Novelette and Novela are becoming very popular.  A Novelette is usually between 7,000 and 20,000. The Novela word count is between 20,000 -40,000.

Novel or Epic?

Novels vary between 40,000 – 110,000 depending on genre. Writing an epic is a big challenge. These tombs are over 110,000. Whew!

Here are my own cheat sheets.

Feel free to copy and paste them into your computer.

Robin Woods breaks down the word count further into genres. Be sure and read her post…



Christine Frazier breaks down the books into chapters and chapter count. This information can be really helpful in keeping your book consistent. Know where and how to break a chapter is important. Unless there is a compelling reason, you wouldn’t want your book to give the reader whiplash with one chapter 1000 words and the next one 4,500. Christine breaks down a few popular novels for us.

Playing the Numbers: Basic Word Counts by 


As with all rules, some are made to be broken. But, I find having guidelines and goals make me a better writer. What about you?

Want to read more about correct word counts keep reading. Here are more great posts on the subject.

Novel and Short Story Word Counts | WritersDigest.com 

What is the Perfect Length of Short Stories? 

How to Write a Drabble

Was this information helpful?

Do you think guidelines are useful?

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.



How to know your word count with Scrivener

It’s super easy!

I like to set goals for my writing, little ones, and big ones.

                    Image Source

When I sit down to write, I set a word count goal. Now I don’t always reach each goal, but at least I’m shooting at a specific target.

I begin each project with a big word count goal for my manuscript. Then I set small goals every time I sit down to write. Scrivener makes both easy to do and monitor. And for those of you who are doing the NaNoWriMo next month, these tips might come in real handy.

Below is another short tutorial to show you how I set these word count goals. Also, I took a minute to answer your questions about different templates found in Scrivener.

Do you have any Scrivener tips?

Do you like to keep up with your word count?

Are you going to participate in NaNoWriMo?

More info with Scrivener and word count feature: 

Track Your Word Count and Progress with Scrivener By

Project Targets at Simply Scrivener

NaNo Tips for Writing with Scrivener 

I’d love to hear from you, let me know how you’re doing! Leave a comment or click the “write me” tab or look for me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at jean.cogdell and Amazon.com, stop by and say hey! The lights are on, and I’m waiting.

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