Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Long Should a Chapter Be?

If you are Dan Brown... a few pages.

If you are the author of all the textbooks I used in high school and college... a hundred million (this is a rough estimate).

In essence, there isn't really an all-inclusive answer. The short answer is "it depends!"

* * *

It depends on your story.
Is it fiction or nonfiction?

For fiction: It depends on your plot.
Is your plot complex or simple? Does it include a lot of characters and locations, etc.?

For nonfiction:  It depends on your arguments.
What points are you discussing? How much space do you need to discuss them well?

It depends on your audience.
Is it for a young adult or scholarly audience? What can that audience handle?

It depends on how long your book is in its entirety. 
What is your word count?

* * *

So, for example, if you are writing a young adult fictional story that has a fairly simple plot and is 20-50,000 words, it's fair to guess that the chapters will be short, or just a few pages.

But if you are writing a nonfiction scholarly textbook with somewhere around 100,000 words, the chapters will need to be long.

If you are still unsure, find several other books in the same genre as your book-in-progress and compare. How long are the chapters in each of those books?

If you are STILL unsure, then don't make any chapters. Worry about it later. Perhaps it will come to you, or you can always ask the advice of an editor.

What do you think? How long should a chapter be?

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