Have you ever pick up a book with a super compelling title and a description that you were so captivated by that you couldn’t wait to sit down and start reading? But, once you dove in, did you find that the chapters were just too darn long?
If so, you are not alone. A lot of readers complain that they don’t like to engage with books that have chapters that are super long and drawn out. Why? – Because they want to be able to finish a chapter in a single sitting, and for most readers, a single sitting is about 10 to 15 minutes. If the chapters in a novel are too long, chances are that they are going to struggle with finishing a chapter in one sitting.
So, with that said, the question: “How long should the chapters in my novel be?” is begged.
The answer to that can be really tricky. However, here’s a look at what famed authors, publishers, and literary agents have to say on the topic…
What’s the Perfect Word Count for a Novel’s Chapters?
On average, most authors, agents, and publishers recommend keeping the chapters of a novel to about 2,000 words. That seems to be the perfect number because the average reader can get through that amount in a single sitting. It’s not too much that it seems to be long and drawn out, it’s easily digestible, and enough drama can be built or questions can be answered in a 2,000 word chapter.
Now, that is not to say that a chapter can’t be longer. It certainly can be. In fact, there are plenty of acclaimed novels that feature chapters that are significantly longer – up to 6,000 words! But, the key here is that they are usually books that are written for older audiences or are genres that are expected to have long-winded chapters, such as science fiction or fantasy.
You can also have chapters that are fewer than 2,000 words. Just like there are plenty of famed books that have longer chapters, there are dozens that feature chapters that are shorter than 2,000 word. Some chapters may not even reach the 1,000 word mark! But, if you’re going to do that, you really have to make sure that the chapter is truly thrilling and captivating. Additionally, you should consider following up with a longer chapter. Doing so will help to keep the reader’s momentum going and make them want to dive right into a longer chapter that can answer more questions.
The Bottom Line
In short, there isn’t a specific rule that applies when determining the appropriate length for a chapter. While 2,000 words is recommended, you certainly don’t have to stick to it. You can have a very successful book with chapters that are shorter or longer than 2,000 words; however, just make sure that you are filling them appropriately. Remember: your goal is to entertain your audience and keep their attention. In other words, write what you think works best for your story.