Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Chapter Length and Pan-Universal Be-Who-You-Are Day

So here I was, in the midst of writing my first novel, and I thought “wait, how long should I be making my chapters?”  Now in reality I probably shouldn’t be thinking about it at this point, I should wait until the book is actually written.  I however have an overdeveloped sense of procrastination…

So there are two main schools of thought on this: short chapters and (you guessed it) long chapters.  (Sounds kind of obvious doesn’t it?)  They both have the goal to keep readers reading as long as possible.

Short Chapters – The mind frame for short chapters is that if a reader knows the next chapter is only a few pages, as opposed to fifty pages, he or she is more likely to continue reading.  They can also be used to give a sense of the book being fast paced, whether or not it actually is.  Shorter chapters also, in my opinion, lend themselves to a Spartan or succinct writing style, one without a lot of description or exposition.  I have found that short chapters are more common in thrillers and such, though are not limited to them.  Witch & Wizard by James Patterson is a fantasy with short, sometimes incredibly short, chapters.

Long Chapters – With long chapters the goal is to give readers as few breaking points as possible.  The rationale being readers do not want to end their reading session in the middle of something.  I don't know if I quite agree with this, I for one will stop just as often in the middle of a chapter as at the end of one.  The writing style best suited for long chapters is a verbose one, in a good way, much like Brandon Sanderson or Pat Rothfuss have.  Long chapters are common in the High and Epic sub-genres of Fantasy, which also happen to be the genres I most often write in.  I guess this means I should be going for longer chapters…

On a side note Happy Pan-Universal Be-Who-You-Are Day!  (Formerly known as Interplanetary Be-Who-You-Are Day)  Kristin Cashore is a talented writer who, like me, is not really a fan of Valentine’s Day.  I dislike how V-Day is so divisive (between those who are in a lovey-dovey relationship and those who aren’t), and really shouldn’t you treat your significant other awesome all the time?  Some arbitrary day should not make you; you should do it on your own.

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