News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (www.NobleDead.org); author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

The Wednesday Writer's Corner: Chapter Length in a Novel


JC and I are often asked questions by hopeful, young writers, and I've kept a mental list of the most common ones.  Here is a surprising question I get asked . . . well, a lot.

"How long should each chapter in a book be?"

The frequency of this question has surprised me over the years because I think some writers really struggle with this--and they worry.  But honestly, there is no right or wrong answer here.  Some writers prefer very short chapters to try and keep the pace quick.  Some writers alternate the point of view between characters by giving only one character the entire "chapter" and then another character the next entire chapter and so on.  Others, like me and JC, use multiple scenes inside a chapter, and often, each chapter tells a small story of its own inside the larger plot, so the length of our chapters depends upon what needs to "happen."

In the current Noble Dead book we are drafting, the longest chapter so far is 39 pages, and the shortest chapter is 11 pages.  If we go longer than 50 pages, we normally take another look at the arc in the chapter and see if we might break it up.

But I think my best answer to this question would be, "It depends on the kind of book you're writing.  It depends on the structure you've chosen.  Follow your instincts, and really, don't worry about it."