Dear Writer Friends,
Do you have this question? It’s a really good one, and worth thinking about, because it’s good to get this right.
I received this email from Writer for a Reason Melanie, from South Africa. She asks:
“Hope you don’t mind me asking but how many words would be considered a good number for a chapter in a book? I finally started writing my Christian Fiction inspired by my life story.”
First of all, well done Melanie for starting – yyyaaaayyyyy!!!!!
And this is such an excellent question.
So, here goes:
The answer is….. it depends! 🙂
Here are some things it depends on:
- The age group of your readership
- The length of your book
- When you have a great place to make a chapter break
- Your own style.
So, let’s go through these in a bit more detail.
If you are writing for 6-8s, your chapters will need to be short, because their attention span will be short.
For older children, your story will be longer, so your chapters will probably be longer, too.
For young adults, your chapters can be just as long as for adult fiction.
But great places for chapter breaks have to be kept in mind! If you come to a place with a natural cliffhanger, you may well want to end your chapter then…
So some chapters will naturally be a bit longer/shorter than others.
Your own story/style will dictate your chapter lengths, too, to some extent.
The Only Way, by Gareth Rowe, is also split up into three parts, which equate to different periods in the protagonist’s life, but there aren’t chapters as such; there are 55 “sections”; some of these are no more than a page long. This makes this book brilliant for reluctant readers. You can buy a copy here.
So there are lots of options.
Here are my three top tips for deciding how long your chapters should be:
1. Do some research. Find successful books similar to the one you will be writing, with a similar length, that your target readers love. How many chapters do these books have? How long are they? It’s always good to copy what is successful! You want to make sure that the chapter lengths are just right for your readers.
2. Do YOU. What would work best for YOUR novel? You don’t have to follow the crowd (but keep your readers in mind at all times).
3. A tip from author of The Dove Stone, Pam Daunton: if you are writing for use in schools, consider how long the chapters take to read aloud – and try to make them all around the same length!
Hope that helps, Melanie, and everyone else, too. If you have any further questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Have a great writing week everyone,
And if you want some advice about chapter endings, you can find it here, in an old writing tip on the Write for a Reason website.