If you are writing your first novel, you may be wondering how long each chapter should be. While there are no hard and fast rules on chapter word count, some general guidelines can help you determine if your manuscript’s long and short chapters can truly impact the reader’s experience.
The length can vary depending on various factors like the genre of the book, the target audience, and your personal writing style. The important thing is to find the length that works best for you and your writing style. Here is a guideline on how many words in a chapter you should have:
How Many Words Should a Chapter Be?
The exact length of your book chapters is up to you but within reason. This is because each book is different, and each author has their own writing style.
If you are unsure of how long your chapters should be, start by looking at other books in your genre. This will give you a good idea of what is the average word count for the genre and help you to find the right length for your own book.
For example, if you are writing a mystery novel like Gone Girl, your chapters may be shorter and more fast-paced than writing a historical fiction novel like Gone with the Wind. If you are writing for a younger audience, your chapters may be shorter and have less complex plots than if you are writing for adults.
The important thing is to find the length that works best for you and your writing style.
Does Chapter Length Matter?
While the length of your chapters is up to you, it is important to keep in mind that each chapter should further the overall plot or whole story and develop the characters. This means that each chapter should have a purpose. If you find yourself padding your chapters with unnecessary scenes or filler material, it may be time to reconsider the length of individual chapters.
Remember, quality is more important than quantity when writing a good book. Another reason why how many words in a chapter matters is because it can affect the pacing or rhythm of your book.
If you want your book to be fast-paced, shorter chapters can help to create this effect. On the other hand, if you want your book to be a slow burn and build intrigue, longer chapters can help with that.
What Is the Average Chapter Length?
The typical length of a chapter is anywhere between 1500-5000 words. However, the most common length of how many words should a chapter be is between 3,000–4,000. This is not mean that your book must fall within this range.
There have been several bestsellers with far much fewer words than 1500 and others with more words than 5000. However, 1500 – 5000 is the average for most writers, so you might want to stay within range or avoid veering off too far. As mentioned before, you may find that how many words in a chapter vary depending on several factors but ideally, your chapters should fall within the average limit.
The average chapter length for a thriller or crime novel is typically between the average 1500-5000 words. Crime and thriller novels are usually fast-paced and action-packed, meaning shorter chapters are often better. Thrillers also need to end with a cliffhanger or some sort of suspenseful plot twist, which is easier to do if the chapters are shorter.
For example, the chapters in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn have an average of 2277 words, which creates a fast-paced and suspenseful reading experience.
The average length of how many words in a chapter for a young adult novel is around 4000 words. This is because these novels are shorter and have less complex plots than if you are writing for adults. While most have to lie on the lower end of the range, some are longer to help the reader immerse themselves in the story.
For example, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone has 4,560-word chapters, while Northern Lights by Philip Pullman has an average chapter word count of 4913 words. Both are ideal lengths for younger readers who want to get lost in storylines.
Epic Fantasy and Sci-Fi
Fantasy and sci-fi novels tend to be lengthy because they often have more complex world-building and plotlines. They also tend to have multiple POVs, which can make shorter chapters difficult to write. For example, A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin has 4052 words because there is a lot of world-building and multiple POVs that all need to be explored.
Romance novels’ chapters typically range between 2000-3000 words. This is because they often have multiple point of views and need to balance between the plot and the characters’ emotional development.
For example, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has an average of 2493 words per chapter, while The Fault in our Stars by John Green has 2640 words. Both of these lengths are good for developing the plot and characters.
Dystopian novels tend to have average length chapters because they have less complex plots than books written for adults. They are also fast-paced, which helps them create a suspenseful reading experience. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has an average of 3700 words, while 1984 by George Orwell has about 4045 words per chapter, which are both good lengths for these types of novels.
Novellas are usually shorter than average chapters because they are meant to be read in one sitting. They are shorter than novels but longer than short stories. They also have less complex plots and characters than novels. Writing a novella is great if you want to tell a simple story without any distractions.
Non-fiction books come in all different shapes and sizes, which means that there is no one size fits all when it comes to chapter length. For example, a history book might have longer chapters than a self-help book because of the nature of the information it contains. However, most non-fiction books have average length chapters because they need to include a lot of information without being too dense.
How Many Pages Are in a Chapter?
The average number of how many pages should a chapter be is about 15 pages long. However, this can vary depending on the genre and style of the book. For example, a thriller might have shorter chapters that are only a few pages long, while an epic fantasy might have longer chapters that are 20 or more pages long.
The rules are not too strict on how many pages should a chapter be, which means there is some wiggle room for you as a writer, but within reason, of course. Although the page count in the chapters of the book will depend on you, you should research to find out the average length in your genre of choice.
How Many Chapters Should a Novel Have?
The average length of a novel is between 70,000-90,000 words. A novel of this length should have anywhere between 15-20 chapters, but again, this varies depending on the genre and style of the book. For example, a young adult novel might have fewer chapters than an epic fantasy. Ultimately, the exact number of chapters is dependent on you and your story. As long as the story gets readers from the beginning to the end satisfactorily, how many chapters should a novel have is not too important. Just ensure that each chapter furthers the story in some way and that there is enough variety to keep readers engaged.
When to End a Chapter?
Figuring out when to end a chapter can be difficult. You want to make sure the reader is invested enough in the story that they will want to keep reading, but you also don’t want to end on a cliffhanger that will leave them feeling frustrated.
A good rule of thumb is to try and end a chapter when there is a natural break in the story. For example, you might want to end a chapter when the main character goes to sleep or when there is a change in location. This will give you enough room to wrap up any loose plot threads without leaving the reader hanging.
What Are Chapter Breaks?
Chapter breaks are like scene breaks in films or movies. They can signify a change in time or location or provide a moment of suspense or anticipation for the reader. Chapter breaks are determined by your book’s genre, length, and audience.
A short story, for example, does not need to have any chapter breaks, while a 550 pages novel might have many chapter breaks to prevent a dwindling attention span.
Some tips on creating great chapter breaks include approaching a chapter with a specific goal, ending a chapter with a cliffhanger, and maintaining a consistent point of view (POV) within a chapter.
When you are planning the outline of your chapters, make sure to keep these things in mind to create well-structured chapters that transition beautifully after chapter breaks. This way, you will keep readers engaged from beginning to end.
There is no definitive answer on how many words in a chapter should be there or how many chapters should be in a book. It all depends on your book’s genre, style, and audience. However, there are some general guidelines that you can follow to ensure your novel’s chapters are well structured, engaging for readers, and in the right sweet spot in terms of length.
Remember to keep the overall story arc in mind and end each chapter with a purpose. With these things in mind, you will be well on your way to writing a great book with captivating chapters.