Sunday, June 01, 2014

How Long Should My Chapters Be?

I used to determine chapter length by word and/or page count, and I know I'm not the only one. I frequently hear new writers ask how long their chapters should be, but the answer is not as simple as a number. The truth is, each chapter needs to be as long or short as it has to be to move the plot along.

I know that sounds horribly vague, but I have found one scene per chapter works best for me. In each chapter I try to have a beginning, middle, and an end, hung on these three questions:

1. What does my main character want?
2. What is preventing  my main character from getting it?
3. What is the result of my main character's efforts?

Sometimes, if I am switching between my main character's point of view and her love interest's point of view, I will break a scene in half, but switching points of view is the only reason I ever do that.

For my YA novels, this means most of my chapters are about 10 pages long, although I notice they tend to be longer at the beginning of the novel and shorter at the end as the pace picks up. I have written chapters as short as one page.

How long do you think chapters should be?

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