Writer typewriting

#Wordsmithery and #Writing: Does size matter? Chapter Lengths

In a writers’ forum, it starts like this:

My chapter is 1,500 words. Is that a good length?

As usual various opinions pour in:

Word counts matters not. A chapter could be one word, one sentence, or multiple pages. I wouldn’t worry about how many words and focus on…. did you say what you needed to complete a scene?

Much too short! No, much too long! Sorry, I get those two mixed up when I write a chapter.

My scenes are usually 1,000-2,000 words, and there’s about 2 or 3 per chapter, however, sometimes I have scenes as short as 400 words. Short, to the point and with shocking effect. I guess it depends on what you want to accomplish with each chapter/scene. They can be as long or as short as you need them to be.


You have the folks that say size doesn’t matter, but as a professional ghostwriter who has written dozens of titles at various words counts and chapter lengths at the client’s behest, and read the reviews, I don’t agree. Today’s readers are overall unsatisfied with novels whose chapter lengths consistently hit under 2,000 words and seem to be happier with chapter lengths of 3K to 4K. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an occasional shorter chapter. Chapter lengths consistently under 2 K words make the story fast-paced and are more like a snack to a regular reader than the immersive experience they want. This reflects in the reviews when too many readers say “I wish there was more to the story,” regardless how well you plotted the story. Shorter chapters often miss out on strategically placed bits of backstory or setting description or exploration of the character’s feelings which flesh out the story for the reader.

Sometimes you do have a shorter chapter when the action is rolling along and you want to get to next bit. Just don’t make a habit of it, okay?

There ARE no rules in writing, except what satisfies the reader. Sometimes writers forget that.

"A" for Angelica

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