I have a feeling that this post will be about a quandary that doesn’t really have an answer.
I have a tendency to grasp tricky concepts, notice fine details and see things laterally—while missing the blooming obvious! The thought came to me last night while re-reading my last novel, that there were quite a lot of chapters—50—which made me wonder if it was too many.
A typical word count for my chapters is 1,600-2,250. I write crime novels, though I haven’t tailored the word count as being ideal for readers of this genre. Rather, it’s come about naturally, fitting the requirements of the mini-story that each chapter essentially is, imparting a discrete part of the whole. I’m conforming to the expected length of 80,000 words for a debut novel by an unknown author.
Chapters can be of any length, of course, and in my reading, I’ve seen one-word chapters and even blank pages used to convey emotion, while some authors don’t bother with chapters at all. With my longer chapters, I’ve used two or three section breaks, when the scenes described are potentially connected—through being a story about a criminal investigation, but I leave it up to the reader to decide the significance. They like to work things out before the detective protagonist.
I like a bit of variety in chapter length, for several reasons. One is that if a reader sees the next chapter is short, they may keep on reading—and if you prime that chapter with something intriguing, they may go onto the next!
Is chapter length something that you consider when writing erotica, romance, fantasy or science-fiction?