How Long Should Novel Chapters Be?

When dividing a manuscript into chapters, how long should each chapter be? Are there any requirements on length? Find out here.
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Q: When I'm dividing my manuscript into chapters, how long should each chapter be? Are there any requirements on length? –Anonymous

How Long Should Novel Chapters Be?

A: 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. 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 Acts 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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