Long Chapters vs. Short Chapters

After much deliberation on the matter I’ve decided that for several reasons, I’m not going to be going the serial novel route (at least for my current work-in-progress). Too many variables that still need to be considered. But I am going to be breaking the novel up into several parts consisting of (at least for now) three chapters each. But I’m curious about something… 

Which is better, long chapters or short chapters? 

Currently my chapters range the mid two thousands in word count, which at this rate to make my final word count goal I’d have to have roughly 45 chapters. Or… I could have 24 chapters at about 5,000 words a pop. For reference, 5,000 words is around 10 pages single spaced which isn’t as much as I would have imagined, but that shrunken down to 6×9 for trade paperback, we’re looking at maybe 15-20 pages per chapter. It isn’t particularly uncommon for well known authors, 11/22/63 (which I’m currently reading) has fairly long chapters, but it’s broken up into scenes which helps break up the chapter more than just one long monotonous chapter. The Casual Vacancy took a similar approach to the way in which the longer chapters were broken up. 

On the flip side however, Holes and the Da Vinci Code were both broken up into multiple short chapters and in some ways I almost think that made these books easier to consume.

What about you? Long chapters or short chapters? 

7 thoughts on “Long Chapters vs. Short Chapters

  1. I think it depends a lot on the individual author’s writing style. My chapters tend to run about 3,000 words, which runs 7 pages in 12 pnt at 1 1/2 spacing. I came up with that length by trial and error–it’s gives me enough room to write a complete scene without feeling too overwhelming. Being able to say to myself, “Only two more pages to finish this chapter” is less intimidating than “I’ve got 60,000 words to go.”

    • That’s a fairly good point. I definitely would think on a readers perspective mostly smaller chapters would help too, but I write in scenes so I feel like 5k broken up into several scenes might work. I think it might also depend on the type of book one is writing too.

  2. I think short chapters are better. Although it would mean a lot more chapters, I can face reading a lot more chapters a lot easier than longer chapters. It also depends on the book. If I find it really interesting, I might not even pay mind to the long chapters. Good Luck!

  3. Most of what I’ve read recommended short chapters. Like you, I think if a long chapter is broken up with scenes, it does make it easier. I generally stop reading at a break whether it’s the end of a chapter or scene change. People often chose to read while riding or during commercials; so, frequent breaks are essential.

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