So, here I am, banging my keyboard as if there is no tomorrow. Of course there is...a tomorrow, as there is a today. And today and tomorrow and for the next two weeks, I intend to keep banging.

The suspense in The Song of the Underground is rising. It’s getting so exciting I often find myself holding my breath when I write my signature cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.

I once got involved in a debate on the internet about chapter lengths. I mentioned that I was once instructed by an industry professional to keep chapters around about the same length.  ‘Not so,’ they all screamed at me. Yikes.

I kept my head, and explained that after I was advised by said professional, I began writing my chapters around about the 1,600 mark.  And the more I wrote, it became natural to me to curve my chapters towards 1,600 to 1,800 words , allowing them to rise at the latter part of the book as I have in The Song, to around about 2,400.

Other people's argument is that each chapter should have a natural cut off point. I don't disagree. A good chapter with two or three scenes is the most effective and the most common. But my point is, a chapter that is too long can be cumbersome and a chapter too short, unsatisfying. Therefore, a natural chapter length can and should be achieved if a writer maintains consistency and keeps them to around about the same length.

It’s all about consistency. 

Here's what I mean....

The reader, (God bless ‘er) gets into bed with the notion of reading a quick chapter before lights out. Reader opens book and there in front of her is a one page chapter.

She is perturbed. She asks herself, what else is there to do in bed with husband of 35 years other than read a book?  So she starts another chapter. She keeps reading and turns four pages. Hubby has already finished his chapter in The Song of the Underground and, satisfied, he turns his light out on his side of the bed and snuggles down, pulling the duvet half way over his head.  

Our reader keeps turning and turning those pages, willing the chapter to end. She can’t understand it. The first two chapters were an enjoyable and reasonable fifteen minutes read. She feels cheated, hanging between chapters like a bat waiting for nightfall.  Her eyes are drooping. She can’t go on. She has no choice but to leave the job undone. And she hates that.

She closes the book, switches off the light, cuddles up to hubby who’s snoring his head off. He breaks wind. She turns over and wonders what time the library opens in the morning so that she can take offending book (with inconsistent chapter lengths) back. Or, should she just lean over and pinch his copy of The Song of the Underground, written by that wonderful new author called Wendy Reakes, who keeps her chapters consistently around about the same length?

Dilemma, dilemma.

3/12/2012

Interesting about your take on chapter length. Currently I have been reading Richard Paul Evans,several of his as my sister comments repeatedly on his short chapters, really likes them. I find them clear cut, but not all of the same length, some two pages. Others, much longer, but each one concludes another phase of the storyline. It appears to me storyline should dictate length, though I must admit right now I am following his lead in completing a novella length story- Right now 18 chapters- with about 30,000 words- all of different length depending on scenes.

Also, want to bring to attention the Novel, We the Animals, by Justin Torres, Interesting they say it is a novel. 128 pages maybe 250-300 words per page - It is powerful prose - pure picturesque and a quick read. These readings are inspiring my interest in short chapters all with a title.

So much, for that. Your comments keep us all thinking and trying etc. have a good day. Janice Abel

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