Monday, October 30, 2006

Chapter Length

I've got a question and since you've been talking about word count... I thought this fit in nicely. Is there a particular word count guideline for chapters? Does chapter length matter - either to agents, or to publishers (that half page for new chapter might take up space and add up to extra pages)...
I've seen some 300 word novels with 25 chapters and some with maybe on 19... People certainly say, "well, your chapter should be long enough to be interesting, carry the story, and end on a hook of some kind or be a logical break with point-of-view"... but that doesn't really tell you much... So, I'm curious if agents or agent assistance ever discuss chapter lengths.

We never discuss chapter length unless we've taken the author on as a client and we feel the manuscript needs revision in terms of structure and pacing.

Chapter length does not matter except in how they make the story flow.


Kimber Li said...

I've found from critting for others that this really depends on whether an author uses chapter breaks for any reason. Personally, I don't. I just write the story. When I get to the 'Weed & Polish' stage of revision, then I break them up into 8 to 12 pages in lengths. By the time I'm finished with the Final Polish, however, some of shortened and become parts of other chapters while others have lengthened up to 17 pages. I agree not to worry about it, unless you're writing for children.

Simon Haynes said...

Chapters aren't just arbitrary rest breaks in a book, they should be carefully planned to suit the style and pace - and the readers expectations.

For example, I write fast-paced humorous SF, so I never go over 4000 words per chapter, and rarely go over 2000 words per scene. I always end each chapter on a hook, and often do the same with every scene. I weave plot strands so I can cut away from one character's disaster to the resolution of another character's problems - and end on their subsequent disaster. Chapter breaks are in the logical spot - the biggest hooks, biggest disasters.
Most of my feedback comments seem to be of the 'couldn't put it down' variety, which is exactly what I'm aiming for. (The first book is undergoing a second printing, so someone likes it.)

Of course, if you're writing a languid romance or a lengthy fantasy trilogy it's going to take a different approach.

Bernita said...

A "languid" romance, Simon?