So What About Chapters in Novels?

For this post, rather than informing or commenting about a subject, I’d like to promote a discussion and ask for your feedback. I’ve heard about – and participated in – various conversations lately about the subject of chapter length – and number of chapters – in novels.

In my personal experience, I’ve read books that cover a wide range of formats for chapters. Some novels have dozens of short chapters, some have fewer chapters that are longer. Some start a new chapter for every scene, some have multiple scenes in a chapter. Some books have titles for each chapter, others simply number the chapters.

So what’s your take on this? Do you have a preferred method of formatting the chapters within your books? Do you have a preference in chapter number or length when you’re reading a book? Do you like chapters with titles, or do you not care? Do you think there are any “rules” that should determine the format of chapters within novels?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “So What About Chapters in Novels?

  1. I think chapters really depends on the authors preferences and even from the structure of the story. Idon’t think there is any rules.

    Personally, I like each chapter to be some kind of short story in itself. I like to have something starting, evolving and more or less resolving at the end and especially have a theme for the chapter. Maybe because I like this kind of completeness, I don’t really like cliffhangers. I almost never use them.
    Again because I treat them like kind of short stories, my chapters are normally made up of different sections, sometimes as many as five, with changes of POV and setting.

    I don’t have a preference regarding lenght, but I have noticed that most of my chapters are between 2000 and 3000 words… though that’s not a fast rule 😉

    What about you?

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    • I like the idea of treating each chapter almost like a short story unto itself. I usually create chapters based on events and/or themes, although I occasionally end chapters with cliffhangers. 😛 And I agree that author preference and the story itself really should determine chapter length more so than any sort of “writing rule.”

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  2. When I write a chapter, it’s usually as long as it needs to be in order to cover the theme or subject within that particular section. In the fantasy series I’m currently writing, I’ve divided up each novel in three parts. Each part represent a particular character development. So each part will have as many chapters as needed until that particular part is fulfilled. I don’t pay attention to length of chapters or how many words, etc. Is it what it is. If it doesn’t fit or feel right, it gets a redo until it’s done.

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  3. Very interesting topic, dear Grace. Perhaps I’m a bit old school on this front, but I like a small to medium number of chapters that are, themselves, numbered. Titles are fine, too, but I like to generally think of a book as a whole, not a series of small stories (unless it really is a literal book of short tales, which is different, of course) and in a way titled chapters give that sense. Honestly though, I wouldn’t say that I have any hard and fast feelings here. Ultimately, the writing and story itself are what matter most to me. It’s fun to read how others feel here, too. Thanks for posting on this.

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

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    • Thanks for your input, Jessica! I like your reasoning for preferring numbered chapters rather than titled ones – that’s something I’ll keep in mind when I’m writing my longer works. I agree, though, that ultimately each story itself should determine whether chapters have titles or not. Some books work great with titled chapters, and others don’t. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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