Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Chapters - the Long and Short of it

Happy New Year!

Years ago I attended a book conference in New York, and one of the editors at a major publishing house suggested that authors keep their chapters short, anywhere from three to seven final version pages, because readers prefer moving along quickly in their zest for the story, and that readers can feel bogged down by long chapters. They said that some readers, before reading a chapter, will check to see how long it is before the next chapter so they can judge how much time they have if they're on their lunch break, or in bed, about to fall asleep. It also creates the sense of a rapid paced story with lots of movement. Short and sweet.

A lot of authors took heed and did just that, making a point of shortening their chapters. Some did not. I will say that I tried, but my style of writing works best when I go for what the characters need to show, say, and do, without having to remember to keep it short. I think it's all about writing style, and what we as authors are willing to try. Some of my chapters are under seven pages, and some are over ten, depending upon the scene.

As an author, do you purposefully concentrate on the length of your chapters - on word count - on the number of chapters, or do you go for it and serve it up as it's cooked, LOL?

Inquiring author-minds wanna know!

Write on!


Neil Waring said...

I try to keep my chapters short, and as a reader, I have been guilty of looking ahead to see if I had time for another chapter.

G. B. Miller said...

As a reader, if a chapter is too short, like less than 4 pages, it really drives me to distraction, in that just as I'm getting into, a break kicks in and it moves to something quite often, completely different. Like the writer can't decide on what character they should stick with for the long haul.

Too long and I start jumping to the end to see if I can skip (read a fiction book where one of the chapters was 35 pages. That, among other things, contributed to me returning the book to the library on my next weekly visit) to the end and move on.

Personally, I like to keep my chapter length somewhere around 10-13 pages. Any longer, then I start thinking about how I can break and start a new one without losing the continuity.

I Are Writer!

Marissa Monteilh said...

Neil, I've counted forward as well, lol. Thxx!!

Marissa Monteilh said...

I appreciate the feedback, G.B. - finding the perfect mix is a good thing, not too little or too much. And so, the craft continues. I'm with you!!

Liane Spicer said...

I don't think I've ever written a chapter as short as seven pages. My chapters are as long as they need to be. I think if readers are counting pages, I haven't done my job of immersing them in the story very well.