Q: When I’m dividing my manuscript into chapters, how long should each chapter be? Are there any requirements on length? –Anonymous
There are no hard-and-fast rules on how long or short a chapter needs to be. It could be three pages. It could be 22. It could be 40. You shouldn’t set manuscript guidelines for yourself on chapter length. Each chapter in your book tells a mini-story that forwards your overall plot. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Chapters should be just long enough to serve a purpose and, once that purpose is served, cut off so a new chapter (or mini-story) can begin.
I’ve often thought of chapters as acts in TV shows. When a TV show finishes Act 1 (which almost always happens just after something significant is revealed or an important question is raised), it goes to commercial break. Ditto for Act 2, 3, 4 and so forth. Look for your chapters to have those similar elements. When you find those “commercial breaks,” end your chapter and start a new one. In other words, let your content dictate your chapter length, not the other way around.
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- March 19 – 20, 2016: The Well-Sold Story Weekend (Boston)
- March 31 – April 2, 2016: The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (Dayton, OH)
- April 9, 2016: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- April 30, 2016: Write Now! Conference (Raleigh, NC)
- May 14, 2016: Chicago Writing Workshop (Chicago, IL)
- June 4, 2016: The Writers’ Conference of Cleveland (Cleveland, OH)
- July 23, 2016: Tennessee Writing Workshop (Nashville)
- July 30, 2016: Colorado Writing Conference (Denver)
- Aug. 12-14, 2016: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York City)
- Sept. 10, 2016: The Chesapeake Writing Workshop (Washington, DC)
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.