There is no definite length for a chapter it can be many pages, one page, or one line. There is no law that says you can’t go beyond a certain number of pages in your chapter, it is simply a matter of what you feel. If you feel that your chapter only needs to be one paragraph long then go with it, if you feel your book needs long chapters then that’s fine too.

If there is a rule of thumb then it’s to ask yourself if you think it feels complete. The idea of what it feels like might be abstract but as you develop your style you will begin to be able to feel out where a chapter should end. However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, in the first draft this doesn’t matter. The important thing is getting the story down and it doesn’t matter if the chapters are all over, in the wrong order, or, in some cases, missing completely.

What do I mean by missing completely? Sometimes, as discussed in Teasing Out a Tangle, you might have a feeling that something needs to go between two chapters but you don’t know what. At that point it’s alright to miss that chapter, make a note and carry on to finish the story, in doing so you might find you what’s missing whether it’s a character scene, a plot point or something else.

It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve planned out everything in minute detail, often in the execution things are already being changed as the story grows. You may find that something that was scheduled to happen in chapter thirty really needs to happen in chapter ten, or vice versa. Alternatively, you might get to the end of the first draft and discover that the chapters need moving, removing or adding. Such things aren’t indicators or failure or fault simply you, as the writer, learning more about your story and how it needs to twist and turn.

The fact that a writer learns and develops as they progress through a story is why I have a problem with some writing guides that occasionally give the impression that a writer needs to know everything about their story and characters before they begin or they try to give a writer a definitive method to write their story. This is wrong because there is no definite method, as I keep saying the creative process is an individual thing. If you need to plan out every chapter so be it, if you prefer to simply write and later decide chop anything that seems waffley, even if it taught you about the world, that’s find too. What should not happen is another writer telling that their method is the method. It isn’t.

So, while I haven’t given you a definitive chapter length I hope I have encourage you to experiment and see what chapter length works for you. Or, in some cases, to discover that you don’t want chapters at all.


For more writing advice see my archive page.

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