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Should my chapter lengths be consistent?

Yes, to the exact number of pages! 0 0.0% [ 0 ]
Yes, give or take a page or two 0.071428571428571 7.1% [ 3 ]
So-so, with margin of difference (0-4 pages) 0.28571428571429 28.6% [ 12 ]
No, who cares? 0.64285714285714 64.3% [ 27 ]
Total Votes:[ 42 ]
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Rennie`'s avatar

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Hiya guys

Today I created a massive outline for my novel so I could see what subplots needed to be expanded and when to add them. In doing so I noted what happened in each chapter and what characters were involved.

In doing so I noticed a massive inconsistency in chapter length. A few were over a page long, most are three to six pages long whereas some, with action packed scenes, last for about nine pages. I used chapters in a way that keeps the reader wanting to read on (i.e. ending them on a cliff hanger) or to end a major scene before going to the next.

I ask this because I've read novels where chapters have a pretty consistent page length throughout. I did notice that the longer chapters in my novel had way more dialogue than the shorter ones, but I'm still a little concerned.

I don't really care if they are consistent or not, but as I plan to get it published I'm wondering if the publishers and the readers mind.
I don't see a problem with some quite short, some a few pages, and some longer. You don't have to make them all X words long give or take a few words.

I think it's a matter of more what's in these chapters
Lazarus Larkin's avatar

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Yeah, I'd rather read a book where the chapter breaks occur at natural breaks in the story rather than have it artifically padded or cut at weird times. I rarely even particularly notice how long a chapter is.
Snowblazer's avatar

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I've read a multitude of book where one chapter is 3-5 pages then the next is half a page to 2 pages.

I personally like different chapter lengths. I also like it when the new chapter starts off somewhere else, then either a new chapter picks it back up or its a time skip
Kita-Ysabell's avatar

Distinct Conversationalist

I tend to be a bit OCD about having all my chapter lengths line up EXACTLY GODDAMNIT, but that has led to some terrible padding, so... eh, I can fix it in editing.

That said, I'm fine reading chapters with radically different lengths, so long as there's a logic not only to the breaks between chapters, but the coherence of the chapters themselves. Not every chapter break needs a MAJOR cliffhanger, you can go with minor cliffhangers as well, or little scene changes that would be a bit messy to write, or times when characters are doing nothing interesting, like sleeping. If the story itself has momentum, you don't really need to do a hard sell every time a chapter ends.

Unless you're publishing one chapter at a time, in which case you're probably looking at a publishing format with very strict guidelines for how long a chapter has to be.
The Kitten Meow's avatar

Shy Fatcat

I personally don't have a problem with inconsistent chapter lengths. I see it as exciting. emotion_c8
Pseudo-Onkelos's avatar

Adored Admirer

This troubled me in the past. It's what a perfectionist would suffer from. Ignore it and write. The number of pages you end up with doesn't matter.
Sianserais's avatar

Blessed Lunatic

I should think you'd be doing yourself and your book a disservice if you let page numbers become more important than the flow of the story.
The Sauce Boss's avatar

Dapper Humorist

Consistent Quality > Consistent Quantity

This is a good rule to go by. Cutting out bits and pieces or vomiting them in just to be consistent with how long or short a chapter is tends to ruin written work.
Rennie`'s avatar

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Thanks all for the replies (quite impressed with the volume!)

I had a feeling chapter length wouldn't be a problem (quality rather than quantity, I thought) but just wanted to make sure. I think it's because I'm getting sp close to finishing this novel I've become nit picky.
A-Q-Kabuto's avatar

Dangerous Cleric

Unless the story format is letters or diary I can't stand chapters being under three pages when reading unless maybe it only happens a couple times very well done times and isn't a consistant thing. If all thirty chapters are one to three pages or somehow less I'll get annoyed ragequit. It just seems wastefull and bugs the crap out of me, especially if the book is more than two hundred pages

On the flip side if in a generally short chaptered book I find a couple rediculously loooong chapters, I'll be a little put off but it's nothing I'd stop reading a book over.

Other than that... so long as it makes sence in the story and works with the pacing/style/whatever. I try to break up my chapters in this way- natural breaks and narrative pauses as well as unnatural ones for when I wanna try to be a fancy little s**t (but I try to keep that limited or I know it'll just get annoying and repetative). I like to try to write my stories in the way I would at least enjoy reading it as if I hadn't been the one to write it.
Airship Canon's avatar

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All is lost again...
But I'm NOT giving in...

I will not Bow!
I will not Break!
I will shut the World Away!
Chapter length is less important than actual pacing.
Another thought, is how is the story presented. Not everything uses standard "chapters".

(E.G. in my newest fanfic, Project:Ignition I'm using a Chapter: Day format (with a Prelude)- Outside of the Prelude, which is 100% Narrator doing Prelude/Prologue-y things that are giving world backstory (As this is a cross-over fanfic, I'm explaining the transition from "Universe A" to "Universe B", and the events that led there, stuff that while relevant to know, isn't direct enough to show in the actual story (The Prelude is a whole lot of History in essence)), and then there's Chapter 1: Lynx of a certain Caliber. But there's another division-- the soon to be released next portion, isn't Chapter 2, it's still "Lynx of a certain Caliber", it just so happens to be "Day 2" of the events. Chapter 1: Day 1 is notably long and full of events, running up to the end of the day. (It also starts right in the middle of the action, rapidly introducing the main character and his rival/friend... it then plays out, with the day's action lasting through the night. Chapter 1: Day 2 is even longer, as it starts earlier, plays into another action scene and carries its way... Of course the actual chapter will consist of many "days"- leading up to a notable change in the story that is going to actually start Chapter 2.)

A broken chapter format like that, yes, it's often seen with video games (Coming to mind are the Armored Core 4 and 4Answer games- Armored Core 4 has 6 chapters- each consisting of a varying amount of missions. The chapters act as overreaching arcs.)

...eh. This post is kinda incoherent. My apologies.
I will not Fall!
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I will take your breath away!

FALL!
As others have said, worrying about chapter length consistency will just cause you to add fillers, end chapters in odd places, or do something else that might take away from the quality of your work. I personally love stories that have a variety of chapter lengths. When I'm reading a book that I'm truely enjoying, I will read, and read, and read until someone or something MAKES me stop (bathroom break, I'm hungry, it's midnight and I have to get up at 6 am, etc). During these times, I love long chapters because I know alot is about to happen. However, on those days where I'm in the mood to read, but for whatever reason, I don't have alot of time to read, I need short chapters. The way I see chapters is that they are used to show different scenes, or different sets of scenes that all relate to the same subplot or time frame or have a common theme, if that makes sense.

Well, it looks like you have the right idea. I just wanted to add my two cents. Good luck with yoru writing. Have fun!
MissYennon's avatar

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I have an issue with writing my chapters the same length ^^; I thought my readers would care about it, anyway. After seeing the votes here, I've had a wake up call o.o

Thanks for making this thread ^-^ I feel relieved.
Hypocrisy here, I know that chapter length consistency is totally irrelevant, some can be a paragraph or half a page if the fancy strikes you, but I have works full of neatly uniform three to four thousand word chapters, save for prologues, epilogues, and preposterously long final or penultimate chapters in which a chapter break would be totally unacceptable and break the flow of the ending showdown.

Having said that, I probably need to reexamine the way I've broken down my own chapters. Usually it's a few scenes clumped together into a chapter with no real chapter theme or similarity, but just grouped so that they form nice sized chunks that I can wrap my head around. Not that it's a pressing issue; they're just chapters.

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