As I started getting back into reading in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed there are all kinds of opinions among book readers. Everyone has different tastes, everyone has different interests and what one person likes in a book another one doesn’t. Of course we all have our own preferences. It’s part of being human.
One varying perspective among book readers is chapter lengths. Some like longer chapters, some like shorter. Personally I’m in between. I don’t enjoy super short chapters but I also don’t want chapters so long that I feel like the story is dragging on.
I know I mention Jan Karon a lot but when I was thinking about longer chapters in books, she came to mind because her chapters are quite long. Even though her chapters are long they are interesting enough to not make it feel like I am pushing through and dying to get to the end of the chapter. She makes the chapters easier to read by breaking them down into sections or scenes throughout the chapters.
The only issue is that sometimes these sections are too short so it feels like I am reading clips from a movie and not a fully cohesive narrative. At times, but not always, it feels almost as if I am jumping in and out of scenes and I lose track a bit, but I still love the stories Jan weaves.
As a writer it is hard to know how long to make a chapter and it’s even harder when a writer is sharing their book or chapters on a blog. When I share the chapters of my stories on my blog I tend to make them shorter because I know most people don’t want to read a long blog post, but when I rewrite them for the final book, I tend to add sections together and make the chapters a little longer.
There are tons of opinions online about how long a chapter should be too. Wordcounter.com says that 5,000 is too long and 1,000 is too short, in the opinions of many. However, Writer’s Digest says that as a writer, you should make your chapter as long as you need in order to propel your story forward. The article’s author, Brian A. Klems says that he thinks of a chapter as an act in a television show.
He writes: “When a TV show finishes Act 1 (which almost always happens just after something significant is revealed or an important question is raised), it goes to commercial break. Ditto for Act 2, 3, 4 and so forth. Look for your chapters to have those similar elements. When you find those “commercial breaks,” end your chapter and start a new one. In other words, let your content dictate your chapter length, not the other way around.”
So, how about you? As a reader, when you read a book do you like short chapters or long chapters? Do you like chapters with lots of scene breaks in them or one big, long scene? If you are a writer, how do you decide how long to make your chapter? Let me know in the comments.