A chapter is an arbitrary break in your book’s narrative. There seems to be a lot of confusion around how long your chapters should be, or if there’s such a thing as a chapter that’s too short or too long. So, how long should a chapter be?
The average chapter length is between three and five thousand words and the general consensus is that going outside those numbers means that the chapter is a bit on the long or short side. However, many great novels of the past have broken this “rule.”
Stephen King’s Misery has a chapter with a single word, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There has a chapter with only eight words. On the other end of the spectrum, Dune by Frank Herbert has a chapter that’s nearly ten-thousand words and The Lord of the Rings has a chapter of over sixteen-thousand words. There really is no limit to what you can do when looking at the word count of your chapters. You could have a chapter with no words if you really wanted to.
A chapter is a section of the story, but its length is adjustable. The importance is where the chapter breaks are placed. How frequently or infrequently you choose to put those breaks is entirely up to you and, somewhat more importantly, up to the story. If the story that you’re telling requires an epic chapter of twenty-thousand words, that’s what it needs; if it needs one that’s a single word, then that’s what you write.
© 2018 Davina Chime
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.