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In one of my novels (it's a middle grade fantasy novel) the chapters average around 2,000 words. But the final climactic chapter is currently almost 7,000 words. I am considering splitting it into two because it feels unbalanced to have it as it is.

But I'm concerned that splitting it might break the momentum. On the other hand, not splitting it might make it seem to drag on relentlessly.

For further info, there is a natural break point, where the battle moves from one place (and one gear) to another - in fact thinking about it, it actually changes gear more than once, so could potentially be split twice.

Thanks for your input.

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The chapters in my middle-grade novel are all over the map (408-1712 words). So far it hasn't been a problem, as I end them at natural stopping points, but this may be something I have to fix when the book is done and in a full edit.

I would not have a chapter as long as 7000 words though. This is middle-grade fiction and the chapter is just too long for that genre.

Middle grade is the age (8-12) where the readers scream "noooooooo!!!!" every time a book or TV series pauses. My daughter at that age used to refer to every single TV episode end as a "cliffhanger."

You might think it's better to give the kids what they want: more story. But I think it's better to make them stop. Because if you make them scream in protest, you've got them hooked. Even if that's for the very end of the book, it's still an engaged and motivated reader.

Much younger kids hate breaks when they're having fun. But this age group enjoys a bit of anticipation, just like they enjoy being scared (some of them anyway). If you're on a roller coaster, you don't want it all to be g-force.

So whether that chapter pause before the final push is enforced to "tomorrow sweetie" by a tired parent, or is nothing more than a two-second chance to scream, you've got a reader who can't wait to get back to it.

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    +1 For tired parents - I should probably split the chapter just in sympathy for them... – TheNovelFactory Mar 1 at 8:25
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I think chapter length matters, some of my readers have specifically complained about my chapters being uneven. Although I don't personally do this, I think some readers use chapters as a kind of progress marker, and don't like it when they are too long. Short, that's okay, a positive surprise. Too long is not good.

So I now measure them, and find a natural break point, or even a cliff-hanger. Apparently that's okay, all they really care about is the metronome of chapters ticking by. I'd break it up, if you can, into sizes comparable to (or shorter than) your other chapters. The rest of your book has trained your reader's expectations.

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    +1 breaking at cliffhangers. – NofP Feb 28 at 21:53
  • I wouldn't say I necessarily use chapters as a progress meter. They're more of advised rest areas. I get to the end of a chapter, it's a good time to put the book down for a bit if I need to. Even if it's a narratively frustrating breaking point, it's at least an obvious one; I don't have to hunt for my paragraph. I have been startled to find I was on the last chapter of 50, with more than a tenth of the book left (no appendices, indices, epilogues, or teasers about the next book). But that was way too committed by that point to really complain too much. – Ed Grimm Feb 28 at 23:38
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    If you're young enough that your parent is reading the book out loud to you before bed (and you can really be any age...before our daughter was born, my spouse and I read to each other before bed), natural stopping points that aren't too far apart are a very good thing. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 1 at 2:50
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It's not a problem if only the final chapter does this.

As Amadeus mentions, chapter length is a kind of unspoken pact with the readers. If your chapters are somewhat even around 2k words, most readers will expect another 2k words.

Maybe coming into the final chapter they'll wonder, "hey, how is this going to sort itself out in such little space?" just to discover that the final chapter is thrice as long. But if the quality of your writing is good, and if the ending is compelling, there is no major issue in that. Readers that followed you up to that point won't drop your book at last. It's a once-in-a-while exception to the unspoken rule, and it will be forgiven since it's the last chapter.

While this is true, it may be worth splitting it, since you already found a good turning point, or a good cliffhanger. If your story is compelling, it will make no difference. Dedicate readers will go from the second-last chapter to the final one without even noticing the split.

The plus side here is that you're giving your audience a choice. Maybe having a clear-cut break point will be useful for those readers who don't like reading all in a bulk. Maybe some of them don't have enough time to face a 7k chapter. You'd be providing a nice place to stop, a place where it makes sense for the plot, also, and sparing them the hassle of having to find a break themselves in some arbitrary point.

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