Does Size Matter?

We can say it doesn't, but we all know it does.  So tell me---exactly how big do you like 'em?

This'd probably be a good time to tell you that I'm talking about chapter size.  One thing I've learned through writing and editing is that there are often multiple potential chapter breaks.  Sometimes an obvious stopping point screams out, but what to do when that doesn't happen?

 Should word count be considered?

For example, I've finally gotten back to my WIP and hammered out at least the beginning of a first chapter. I've reached a point where I could end the chapter...or I could keep going.  Either way it'll work just fine from a story perspective. As it stands right now, I'm at 2055 words, roughly 8 pages in print.  That strikes me as rather too short.  Is it?  Or is short a good thing? And do I need to aim for consistent chapter length throughout the story (I typically try to)? Or is content all that matters and I should stop asking these questions?

A little help, please: 

1. As a reader, would you say you generally prefer long or short chapters (how do you define long & short)?

2. What's too long?  What's too short?

3. Do you prefer chapter length to be consistent throughout a novel, or do you like to mix it up, or do you not really notice.

4. Does your chapter length preference differ depending on the media on which you're reading: hard copy; computer; e-reader?      

Thanks for your input.  And now, on to Meet an Author Monday.  We're doing something new for the new year!

On the last Monday of each month, authors on the hop are asked to feature a post on a unified topic. This month's topic is:

Where You Write

So sign up for the hop on January 31 and post a picture of where you write. Tell us how you started writing there, why you like writing there, etc. etc. We want to know all about where the magic happens!


Anonymous said...

I prefer shorter chapters to longer chapters. Though I don't mind a few longer chapters mixed in with several shorter chapters - depending how much action is going on (the chapter needs to keep me interested).
It hard for me to read chapters that are over 20 pages. Again, it depends on what is happening, but by the 20th page it's harder stay focuse. By then, I just want to reach the end of the chapter.
As for too short of a chapter, I don't believe there is such a thing. I love clear and to the point chapters, even if it's only a few sentences or a few paragraphs.
Hope you have a wonderful day!!

Angelina Rain said...

To me, the perfect chapter is 10 to 20 pages long. Anything longer annoys me, except if it’s full of action or drama that keeps me pulled in.

Kittie Howard said...

For me, chapter length doesn't have to be the same. I prefer chapters that are between 8 and 10 pages, get a bit annoyed if a chapter begs for a break and the author keeps going, like tightly written short chapters sprinkled throughout, but, overall, don't care about chapter length if the story rolls.

That said, I flee from books with long pages of dialogue. I once read where dialogue over five lines spoken by one character turns the reader off. For me, this is true. Ditto for stuff lined up like a train after He said............. Oy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Medium size? And I have no idea how big my chapters were for my book. Believe it or not, it didn't get divided into chapters until after my publisher accepted it. Yeah, I was damned lucky!

fallen monkey said...

I probably prefer shorter rather than longer, but not something consistently really short (like around 5 page) that could feel too choppy and breaking continuity as I'm trying to get immersed into the story. I don't know, maybe like 10-20 pages? And if trending on the long side, definitely inserting a section break in there somewhere.

But I think for a first chapter short isn't bad as it provides a boost of momentum from the get-go...gives a quick hook to ensnare you into committing more to the longer chapters to follow.

And I don't mind if chapter length is varied as long as it maintains a continuous flow and rhythm that is appropriate for the story.

Bravo on completing the first chapter of your next manuscript!

Nicki Elson said...

Thank you all for your thoughts! Sounds like 10 - 20, w/ more chapters closer to the 10 and breaks in longer chapters is the general preference.

Kitty - I hadn't heard that tip about the 5 lines of dialogue. Thanks!

Lisa said...

Hmmmm... I don't mind long chapters when I'm reading. Short ones are lovely, too. I don't think eight pages are too short, unless the rest of your chapters are like 20-30 pages. Then I guess it would look out of place.

I think of a chapter as a little breather in the story. I can put it down if I want. But if the chapter break is good, I'll have to keep going to see what happens. I'd go for whichever break seems more inticing.

Lisa said...

Ooops - one more comment. I have exactly the opposite view as Kittie. I love reading loads of dialogue. Sometimes, when I'm breezing through a book, I'll ignore all the narration and only read the dialogue (which does get confusing sometimes). I kind of like the feeling of eavsdropping on an extended conversation.

Just my two cents...

gideon 86 said...

On my first novel they averaged about 18 pages some a few pages longer others shorter.

On my current WIP my chapters seem shorter. They are averaging between around 12. This is double spaced of course.

How are you Nicki? Haven't seen you in a while...


Sondrae Bennett said...

I prefer short chapters. When I write I try to stay consistently between 3k and 5k but thinking about it now, I'm not sure as a reader I care whether chapters are consistent in length.

Lisa said...

Nicki, thanks for the comment on my blog... I tried to email you back but couldn't because you're a "no reply"... do you mind giving out your email?

gideon 86 said...

Thanks for the nice comment at my blog, Nicki ... you are too sweet. I appreciate the suggestions.

I worked today... I've done about 1500 words today...only 500 more that's nothing. I am sticking to my schedule.

Thanks for the prayers and good thoughts. You're the best.

I just noticed on your profile you are a Taurus .... me too! What day?


Jennifer Lane said...

Hey Nicki! Nice blog post title, you little minx. ;) I happen to like shorter chapters, 2,000-4,000 words. I think a 2,000 word first chapter is just fine, especially if you end on a little sumpin sumpin to hook the reader. And I agree with Lisa that I enjoy pages of dialogue as long as one character doesn't go on for too long. I like the back and forth.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question! I'm not sure how long of chapters I like - it really depends on if there's a lot happening or not. I guess 10 pages is probably a good number, but only if there's a natural break there. Even on an eReader I like chapter breaks - gives me the opportunity to put the book down without stopping mid-scene.

Super short chapters - like one page or a paragraph tend to annoy me. Dan Brown has a few of these in his books, and to me they feel like "Oh, this character elsewhere in the story forgot to tell you..." Very rarely is an interruption like that welcome.

As a writer, my chapters vary from 3K to 7K I think. I think the longest might be 20 pages? I guess I should go get a copy of my book and check!

Joanna St. James said...

I have no preference I just want a well written book.
I would say write and worry about the rest later :)

gideon 86 said...

You bet I did 725 words and still going. I had to drop by and tell you my B, day. April ...... 29th How cool. I knew you were an April Taurus. We're a lot more effervescent than the May Taurus' At leas that's what I've found.

On a more fun note. You book looks like a great read. I've got to get a copy. As a Taurus you know I want it signed. So do you have copies at home? if not, When I get from Amazon will you sign it for me. That is my new thing for this year. I want my blogger friends books and signed.

Here's my email and let me know... mculi at aol dot com

Thanks, Nicki

I wished you lived closer to Chicago ... it would be so cool!

N. R. Williams said...

There are some books that when I read them, they are so well done, that I don't notice chapter size. Other books, full of repeated information that I struggle to continue to read. In my book, I can write a 3 page chapter or a twenty page chapter. It depends on what is needed.

Thanks for your comment on Michael's blog. If you want to learn about Prince Healden, you will have to read the book. If you leave your email in the comments, you may win one of three e-books I'm giving away.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Renee Miller said...

I'm with N.R., I think the story should dictate the chapter length. I prefer books that vary the length although overly long chapters (more than 20 pages is ridiculous IMO) annoy me because I'm one of those "one more chapter" readers at 2am. If the chapters are written to suit the story, the reader won't notice if it's too short, too long. Stephen King has books with a paragraph for a chapter. Just saying...

As a writer, my chapters typically come in around 2500 words, or less. Never less than 4 pages though. Varying the chapters helps to pace the book too. If things are happening really fast, a shorter chapter will add to that feeling. If you want to draw the story out, give the reader a breather, longer helps to do that.

Nicki Elson said...

This is awesome feedback. Thank you all! Writing is so much on instinct, and what I'm getting from this is that chapter length is the same way - go with your gut and here's a few loose guideline to look at, but don't freak out about it. Ya?

coreenm said...

As a book designer, and not as a writer, I think somewhere between 8-15 pages is ideal. Too much longer, and you don't give your reader a natural breaking point so that they can set the book down. Too much shorter and your book ends up with extra pages because of all the white space at the end of the chapters. I designed a book once that had 50 chapters and 257 pages. That is too many chapters, lol, but wasn't my call :)

Nicki Elson said...

Thanks for that perspective, Coreen. I think as I write, I'll stop where it feels natural, but then when I go back in for edits & polish, I'll look for places to break up any chapters verging on the long side. Just like I do when I'm editing someone else's work. Having these general guidelines to go by is fabulous.

So that book averaged 5 pages per chapter? Ay yi yi!