I wanted to ask you about chapters. I’m heavily into the re-write of mine. I’ve been putting a lot more detail which means some of my chapters have become a lot bigger. In your view what’s the maximum word count for a chapter? Is it okay to have a 3k or even 5k one if it works?

Hi Eric,

There really is no right or wrong answer here. My chapters often range from 1100 to 6700 words. As long as you’re in the same place, in the same character’s perspective, there is no reason to end a chapter. Chapter breaks for me are most appropriate for the passage of time (say a few minutes/hours), during a major perspective change (a character POV who isn’t in the same vicinity), or a change of scenery. Even just walking into another room can justify a chapter change.
Well say I’m writing a story that is completely linear, stays with one character’s perspective, and remains in the same room the entire time? 
Sigh… okay, in this increasingly hypothetical situation, I’d say that a chapter break would need to happen when the character’s attention is drawn to something new or… something changes in the room.
As I said above, there is no exact science. How or when you decide to end a chapter will be dictated more by your own style of writing and inclination than it will any written rule or any advice I could give you. I try to look at a chapter as its own individual thought, problem, or scene.
There are many out there  who would say that the length of a chapter should be more decided by the length of a book. (a 55,000 word book should have 5,000 word chapters), in other words, split up the book into 10 chapters, each one containing a tenth of the total word count. I don’t subscribe to this as I find it far too rigid.
In the end, it’s really up to you. If you feel like a chapter is starting to drone on, then find a place where the attention is broken or the scene changes in someway and insert a chapter break. It’s more of a judgement call than anything else.
So, sorry that I can’t give you a definitive answer, but honestly that’s because there isn’t really one. I do hope that this helps in some way.
Readers, what do you think? Are there certain chapter structures that you live by when writing? Let Eric know in the comments .



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1 Comment on “The Non-Written Not-Rule on Paragraph Length #Writing #Author #Advice

  1. Not too long ago I did a chapter by chapter review of Tom Clancy’s Op Center, Clancy co-creating the concept and Jeff Rovin being the actual author. I found the chapter breaks there were terrible. Except under certain circumstances a chapter should last more than a page or two. The book changed chapters every time the minute hand moved, or that’s how it felt like, and it made it hard to not get pulled out with all the location and time stamps every three or five pages. It’s an international book so unless you know your time zone differences it can get confusing every time they jump between Washington, DC and Korea (and the few other locations in the story) and it ruined my enjoyment. What works on TV or in a movie really doesn’t always translate as well to prose.


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