How long should a chapter be?

I’ve blogged about this before but I’m in a quandary again so I think it’s worth a revisit.

I’m massively editing Chapter One (currently called Wigginton, Tamworth, England – 1883). There are three distinct scenes in it. To keep them together, will have a chapter of between 6500 and 7000 words. But to separate them makes for shorter chapters. What to do? What to do?

Research of course!

First site I looked at – All Write Fiction Advice: Chapter & Novel Lengths, suggests anywhere between one sentence to 5000 words, with the average length being 2500 words.

Writer’s Digest is a lot less specific but I like what it says:

There are no hard-and-fast rules on how long or short a chapter needs to be. It could be three pages. It could be 22. It could be 40. You shouldn’t set manuscript guidelines for yourself on chapter length. Each chapter in your book tells a mini-story that forwards your overall plot. Chapters should be just long enough to serve a purpose and, once that purpose is served, cut off so a new chapter (or mini-story) can begin.

The Better Novel Project: Playing the Numbers: Basic Word Counts essentially goes for chapter lengths of around 4,280 words based on the chapter lengths of three best sellers.

Reedsy suggests that the average is between 1,500-5,000. 

What to do? I am thinking that I may divide the chapter. But I’m not sure that will work because all three scenes happen on the same day. I have divided the chapter into sections … yeah, I’m going to do that.

So Chapter One remains one chapter, three sections. And I think I will call it Wigginton, Tamworth, England – 1883.

Well, that’s one decision made on one chapter. I shall bear in mind what I have read and makae decisions on chapters as I go. The over-riding factor is that it has to make sense.

Cheers

Kerry

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