Musing: More, shorter chapters? Fewer, longer ones?



Data the monkey brings writing advice to you!

There’s no criteria for chapter length, but for me, the length is determined by a few factors.


  • What is accomplished in the chapter?
  • How many scenes are within the chapter?


If the chapter is long, it may be a good time to reevaluate your focus.  You may want to look for ‘meandering’ and cull it out to shorten the chapter.    If the chapter is short, I check what is ‘accomplished’ in the chapter and consider if it could be rolled into another chapter or skipped entirely.   The last thing you want to do is add padding to the chapter to make it longer for the sake of being longer.

If your chapter is short and to the point, let it stay that way.

So what is the perfect length for a chapter?   There’s no right answer.  However, the average adult can read 250-450 words per minute, depending on their education level.   250-300 is the average with college students/graduates clocking in at 400-450.  A safe bet is to consider your audience and let each chapter be readable in fifteen minutes.

In my novels, I aim for a top end of four thousand word chapters.   The stories I post on the blog are typically one-thousand five-hundred words to two-thousand five-hundred words.   I want people to be able to read them quickly.

Two Destroyers (and Kingless Country) follow the word count guideline pretty strictly.   I want it to be accessible fantasy that someone can read in short spurts.  It’s not really epic fantasy, but rather adventure fantasy with epic themes.  It is important to meet the expectations of your target audience.

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