This is basically a follow-up question I asked here: Scene switching and how to do it?

I always considered it normal for a chapter to have between 3000 and 5000 words. And people around here thought so too: What is a normal length for a chapter? But the comments I got from my "Scene switching" question recommended way smaller amounts.

I tried looking for a different approach which is read on here: When should a chapter end? The answer I liked most was of "Lauren Ipsum". But it seems outdated?

All this raises some questions.

What is the deal with chapter sizes? How many should I use? Should I be consistent in sizing? Wouldn't variable sizing be annoying to readers?

  • 1
    What makes you think Lauren's answer is outdated? To me it seems to be very relevant. Also, you link to some random coment with your first link. Was that intended?
    – Secespitus
    May 23, 2018 at 10:47
  • @Secespitus no that was not intended, good catch. Lauren ipsum does not speak about sizes and consistency. But does make a valid point about ending a chapter, more so then the accepted answer imo. May 23, 2018 at 10:52

3 Answers 3


A chapter can be long or short, it can be longer or shorter than other chapters in your novel, you might have a novel with no chapters at all.

Think of it this way: a sentence isn't defined as 5-10 words. It is as long as it needs to be to express a small idea. Not letting it run over three lines is a sort of useful guideline, but sometimes you might ignore that guideline, and other times you have a sentence consisting of one word only.

Same with paragraphs - some are longer, some are shorter. You end a paragraph when you move to a new idea.

And it is the same with chapters: a chapter can be one page long, it can be one word long (though that extreme is rather rare). Or it can be 40 pages. When you move to a new place/time/character/idea/whatever, it might be a good idea to start a new chapter. It's an indicator to the reader that there's a "full stop" here. So you end a chapter where you want that "full stop".

  • 2
    @TotumusMaximus You don't need consistency in sizing. Just as you don't need all your sentences or all your paragraphs to be the same length. May 23, 2018 at 10:57
  • 2
    @TotumusMaximus Not at all. Look at some examples: Lord of the Rings - chapters range from 8 to 32 pages. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel - 7-25 pages. All Quiet on the Western Front - 2-32 pages. May 23, 2018 at 11:19
  • 1
    I came across the lotr analysis of the lotrproject (lotrproject.com/statistics/books/chapters) I did not find the consistency i was expecting as you said. And the sizing differs greatly. From about 3000 to 16000. I guess I don't understand this but that is fine. I get plenty good answers to consider for later. For now I will just write on. Thanks :) May 23, 2018 at 12:05
  • 2
    Terry Pratchett never but once used chapters in a Discworld book, the one time he did it was super stilted and weird.
    – Ash
    May 23, 2018 at 15:20
  • 2
    The entire chapter 11 of Lewis Caroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass: "— And it really was a kitten, after all." May 23, 2018 at 19:11

If you think of a scene, it is a smaller scale for chapters. A book contains many chapters, that contains some scenes.

The scale for scenes should be smaller than 3000-5000 words, cause in sum, they should make a chapter of 3000-5000 words.

My personal opinion on chapters is: If you need them, then use them. Nothing is more annoying in reading, as to think "Wow, that was a pretty abrupt ending of the chapter" cause the author had a word count for a chapter. There is no need for a special amount of words. You could write a whole book without a chapter. You could write a book with 80 chapters. That depends all on your style and the way you write. If your book comes in several parts with multiple story arcs and persons, then chapters could be useful.

But remember: It always depends on what you're comfortable with

  • 1
    I do get you. This is why I liked the answer of Lauren Ipsum. in that question I linked. I feel chapters are needed to give readers a break if they want to. And give them a way to have a feeling how far they are progressed in the story. May 23, 2018 at 10:58
  • 1
    But the problem with them is, if you force yourself into a strict count of words or something like that it feels off too and makes it harder to read the whole. I can't describe it really good, but it feels like something is off.
    – Pawana
    May 23, 2018 at 11:00
  • yeah I wouldn't want to force it. But why do other writers stick to this approach. And the answers/comments I got seemed to be in a range fo 1000-1500. Did I misunderstand what they were trying to say? (Source: writing.stackexchange.com/questions/36308/…) May 23, 2018 at 11:05
  • 1
    I can't think of what it was, but I'm sure I've read a full-length book that only had 3-5 chapters of wildly different lengths, because those were the times the author wanted to punctuate the story in that way.
    – Tin Wizard
    May 23, 2018 at 17:59
  • 1
    @Walt Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman both break their narrative into seven chapters - the seven consequent days the story covers. More happens on some days than on others, resulting in wildly different chapter lengths. Not sure if either is the book you're referring to. May 23, 2018 at 19:41

Chapter length is a stylist choice

There is no correct answer to this. The length of the chapters in any given book is entirely dependant on writing style. How you use them can effect the tone of your writing as well as the readability. However what is 'best' is entirely up to you.

Chapter length can be used to control the pacing of your work. A longer chapter gives a slowly pace while short chapters drive the plot more quickly. Some authors change the length of their chapters throughout the novel to control the pacing of the story.

This article How long should a chapter be? analyses the average chapter length of popular works and find the most common length is between 3000 and 5000 words, but Holes averages just 942 words per chapter and One Hundred Years of Solitude averages 7226 words.

Ultimately word count shouldn't be the driving force behind chapter length. Instead let the feel and pacing of the story determine where and how your chapter end.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.