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Chapter issues : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Chapter issues

Here's the place to share a writing or marketing tip you've used successfully and want to pass along.
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JoS
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Chapter issues

Postby JoS » Sun Dec 18, 2016 12:03 pm

Hi,
I hope you can guide me a little on that one. I searched in the forum but couldn't find the answer on my question.
Is there a correct chapter separation? I mean how can one define the perfect number of chapters? Is there a rule on that?
I wrote my first novel in 16 tittled chapters. So I wonder if I did the right thing or maybe I need to break in down to a bigger number of chapters.

Appreciate your advice!

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shadowwalker
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby shadowwalker » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:41 pm

There's no set standard for chapter length. Chapters should be one "set" of events that blend together; when the story moves on to the next "set" of events, you use another chapter. Some chapters are only a page, a few paragraphs; others are pages and pages. The main thing is to make them end at a point that feels natural for the flow of the story, just as you end a paragraph.

A good discussion of chapters in another context is here:
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

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JoS
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby JoS » Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:20 pm

Thank you, I'll check it out.

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cynicalwanderer
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby cynicalwanderer » Sun Dec 18, 2016 6:19 pm

Yes, it's largely down to "feel", I think - what seems like the right point to conclude one chapter and start another. A few examples to consider are:

- Cliffhangers. The Dan Brown style of chapter breaks...
- POV character changes are commonly used break points, useful for books where chapters switch between different chars
- Location or scene changes. While these can of course also happen inside chapters, as scene transitions, if you've got 007 leaving London and arriving in Caracas for the next stint of action, it's a good excuse for a chapter break
"I've stopped giving advice. Even when people ask for it, they resent getting it." -Ross Macdonald.

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DrG2
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby DrG2 » Sun Dec 18, 2016 9:43 pm

I believe most chapters in most novels should be between 1K and 7.5K words. But an individual chapter could be anywhere from one word to 30K words.

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JoS
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby JoS » Sun Dec 18, 2016 10:13 pm

Obviously the length gap is very wide.
I'm more worried that I might be making a mistake having them titled although it feels like the right thing to me.

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shadowwalker
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby shadowwalker » Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:16 am

"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

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wdarcy
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby wdarcy » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:41 pm

A chapter is as long as it has to be. That said, chapters seem to be shorter these days, at least in genre novels. If your novel contains only 16 chapters, they must be fairly long, unless your novel is extremely short. You might think of ways to break them into shorter chapters. For example, if a chapter contains 3 scenes, you might think of making each scene into a single chapter. Remember: no reader will ever complain that a chapter is too short.

I love chapter titles, both as a reader and an author. I used them a lot in my first 3 novels. However, I've come to realize that they really are rather old fashioned, and few authors use them anymore. So I've stopped using them, especially as I'm writing much shorter chapters than I used to. If you group your chapters into parts, you can give each part a title--that's common these days.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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JoS
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby JoS » Mon Dec 19, 2016 2:02 pm

So I'm a little old fashioned .. not surprised at all :)
I'll try to rethink the chapters. Maybe break them into smaller ones and then group into titled parts. I don't like to see titles on the chapters if they are too many as well. As a reader I don't. So I won't write it the way I wouldn't like to see it myself.
Thank you for the advice.

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Gustavo Woltmann
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Re: Chapter issues

Postby Gustavo Woltmann » Wed Jan 04, 2017 1:17 am

It's your novel, you decide on how long your chapter would be as long as the events blend in one. Unless your publisher sets a standard about the chapter's length.

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