Chapter length

Yes, I know I’ve spoken many times about chapter length, but I’m mixed up in another conundrum about them so I’m posting again. I’m working on my fantasy novel at the moment, and the chapter lengths are between 2,500 and 3,500 words. It’s just how they have worked out.

Last week I wrote a chapter that was only 900 words. 900 words, as far as I’m concerned, is not a fantasy chapter. But am I being chapter length-ist? If I have said all that I want to say, and it came out at 900 words (well, 909 to be exact) shouldn’t I just chuck in a shortie?

A couple of years ago I studied a few action adventure novels and then tried my hand at writing one. Chapters were between 400 and 1,500 words, with most being around the 800 word mark. Studying these sorts of novels I noticed they were really easy books to read. I was also amazed to discover it was a really easy book to write. I had a first draft in four months, and that was done while working full time.

Compare that with my fantasy book; it has taken me about ten years to write 12 chapters. That is only about 30,000 words. The action novel ended up at 88,000 words. So I did 30,000 words over 10 years vs. 88,000 words over 4 months.

There are many factors that play out with how long it takes to write something; the fantasy book has lots of world building, the action novel was contemporary so did not require much, I’m sure that had an impact. But is it really as complicated as that?

I wonder if knowing you can blurt out a chapter in one sitting makes it easier to sit down and do it? When you know that you only need an hour to make it to your target for the day, instead of all morning, then I think it is more likely that you will sit down and get started.

There is a way to test this. If I made 900 words the norm for my fantasy novel, would I be able to get it finished by the end of the year? Would it be the same novel? Would it be embraced by fantasy readers? Or deep down, are we all a little bit chapter length-ist?

One thought on “Chapter length”

  1. Being a pre-bed reader, I prefer shorter chapters because it means I’m less likely to fall asleep mid-chapter. It breaks the scenes up into manageable portions for those of us without an afternoon to spend lost in a good book 😉

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