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Chapter Word Count?

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Chapter Word Count?

Postby Mornara » Tue Feb 06, 2007 5:01 pm

I sat down today and started really doing the nitty-gritty work of figuring out what I had written, and what I needed to write still. I've written in bits and pieces a little too much, and now have a lot of gluing to do. I'm too the point where I need some of the more technical knowledge. Unfortunately, I've forgotten some statistics and rules I had learned, so I need help!

I think I read somewhere that the average chapter is about 1200 words. Is this right? I wrote some pieces about this length, and honestly, they feel short.
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Postby Chaeronia » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:01 pm

1,200 is not a fantasy industry standard. I would suggest at least trebling that number. Between 5,000-10,000 is normal, imo.
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Postby Mornara » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:20 pm

Ok, that sounds better. I have no idea where I got that number, unless my dylexia kicked in and scrambled numbers on me. Thanks Chaeronia!
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Postby Magus » Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:44 pm

The average length of an author's first fantasy novel is about 90,000 words. The average fantasy novel published today is about 120,000 words. The Lord of the Rings is a bit over 300,000 words long.

I don't know about the average length per chapter, but the above are accurate statistics. I'd say figure out about how long your book's going to be in terms of word-count, figure out about how many chapters you plan on dividing that into, than simply divide and see what number you get, and then compare it to what you, in reality, have. It won't be perfect, nor is there any level of guarantee that it will be absolutely accurate, but it will give you a general idea about where you're placing on the average.

One example: The Lord of the Rings is a bit over 304,000 words long (estimated) and has 62 chapters. That averages out to about 4,003 words per chapter. But, then again, that's just Tolkien.

The general formula for averaging word-count (which is also how publishers measure it) is multiply however many pages long it is by 250 (the average wordcount per page). This should give you a rough measure to go off of.
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Postby Scriven » Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:47 pm

I really think that chapter length is an arbitrary thing. I think the last thing you want to do is start pacing your novel by what an "average" word count per chapter or novel lenght should be. The publishing industry is changed and as a new writer you want to sound different. Timing your chapter length to fit standards from the 80s and 90s might not be the best thing.

I just looked through some recent books to come up with a page length per chapter

Gene Wolf's The Knight 6.21 pages per chapter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 21 pages per chapter (Paperback)

Mercades Lackey Alta:19 pages per chapter.

The Da Vinci Code: 4.3 pages per chapter

It varies a good bit and the question you should be asking yourself is what fits my story, not what is the average.
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Postby Mornara » Fri Feb 09, 2007 2:53 am

Ok, thanks guys. I come from a family that still pretty much speaks the Queen's English. So many teachers and high education that they all talk funny. So I tend to be a little too rules oriented with this stuff. I'd make far more progress otherwise!
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Postby aldan » Fri Feb 09, 2007 2:04 pm

Some thing to keep in mind also is that not only word length, but also chapter length will have an effect on the 'speed' of the novel, or how it seems to move along, or to move the reader along.

My opinion is that variety is the spice of life, so it's much better to simply make a chapter the length it needs to be, and as you do that, try to keep the chapter lengths varied, so that it will not make it so that the reader starts thinking, "Oh, well, the last 5 chapters were about this long, and so I think this one is going to end on the next page..."

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Postby Magus » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:30 pm

"The Queen's English", eh? A friend of mine, when I was in Junior High, told me to stop "talking like Shakespeare". I honestly didn't know what he was talking about.

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Re: Chapter Word Count?

Postby dragon13writer » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:33 am

Now-a-days, you can have shorter chapter especially if they are the action packed chapter. Suspense may be longer IMO but you still want them on the edge of their seat but not too much that they skip ahead. Ruminations, I wouldn't get too long or you may bore them to death (sometimes Robert Jordan got that way; I guess that's why I'm still at book 7 after 5 years- yes, I've been reading book 7 for 5 years and I'll pick it up occasionally). And at an average of 1000 pages per book, that would be 2.5 million words per book. [fade]A bit over kill don't you think?[/fade]

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Re: Chapter Word Count?

Postby Neurolanis » Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:05 pm

The average chapter in my book has over 6, 000 words, though mind you they are long chapters.
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Re: Chapter Word Count?

Postby Qray » Sat Aug 23, 2008 10:12 pm

dragon13writer wrote:Hey, this text stuff is fun :mrgreen: . I haven't found a message board with this much before.


We're an action packed Site, dragon13writer! :thumright:

To echo some of the comments made in this thread, IMO chapter length is completely arbitrary and should be determined by how they fit what's been written. Sometimes you'll see chapters devoted entirely to one character's point of view. So the chapters change as often as the point of view shifts and the length of the chapter is determined by what you need to let the reader know before moving onto the next character's P.O.V.

Some writers divide chapters after climactic scenes, others try to end them on cliffhangers or stunning revelations, so that the reader must turn the page and keep going.

Some writers begin with short chapters to create a fast-moving pace as the reader is just getting interested in the story. Then move to longer chapters later on in the work on the presumption that the reader who gets that far is already interested and willing to read through much longer prose.
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