Craft

WBP Survey: Average Chapter Length

Hey WBP! I’m back with a new feature called “WBP SURVEY,” where we survey the writers of WBP on a topic or question.

Today’s question is: What is your average chapter word count for your novel(s)?

I personally agonize over my chapter word counts, mostly because I want them to be uniform in length. But after conducting this survey, the general consensus seems to be: there is no magic number for chapter length!

Chapters are made up of scenes, so your chapter length is determined by when you’ve reached the end of a scene. A chapter can be comprised of three 500 words scenes or two 2500 word scenes. As long as the scene ends when the chapter ends, you’re good to go.

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Axie: For REBEL SEOUL, chapters average around 2.5k, ranging from 1.5k to 3.5k.

Akshaya: I try to keep chapters under 3k whenever possible, but I probably tend to average around 2500.

Ella: I try to keep them 3-4k 🙂

Christine: In THE DEVOURING GRAY, they’re 3.5-5k.

Kat: For GUMIHO, the average per chapter is 1.2k (editor’s note: see photo below of how Kat came up with this average)

Melody:  2k-4k, with a handful of 1.5k chapters thrown in and one special chapter that’s super short

Meg: As one of my grad school professors told us, “It’s as long as it needs to be.” I can feel when something needs to be longer— that scene just needs something. I’ve got chapters under 3k and I have one over 8k. They work because the pacing works. Choose your poison basically.

Ashley: 3.5k on average, 2k-4k overall.

Foody: In DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY & the Shadow Game series, I’d say they start out around 3-4k and end at 2-3k.

Mara: 3k-4k.

Katy: My early chapters are 4-5k and then they get shorter.

***

Some observations:

For Foody, Katy and Mara, the length of their chapters became shorter as the books got closer to the the end. On the opposite spectrum, Christine’s became longer.

For Kat’s GUMIHO, the word counts for each chapter have a wide range. Pictured below is the result of asking Kat what her average word count is. Everyone else just ballparked it, Kat did math. Her average word count is: 1203 words (out of 89 chapters). 

img_20180226_123815_1024.jpg
Kat would like everyone to know she is not a serial killer.

In conclusion, don’t overthink your chapter lengths! You’ll know when your chapter is over because it will have a sense of “rightness” developed from having read a ton of books yourself. It’s a special feeling for a writer to reach an end of chapter. In the long journey (or video game) of novel writing, completing a chapter is like reaching a checkpoint (or finishing a level). Pat yourself on the back (save!) and move onto the next chapter.

Here’s the question posed for all of you: What is the average word counts for the chapters in your novels?

Lastly, are there are any questions or topics you’d like to ask WBP?

5 thoughts on “WBP Survey: Average Chapter Length

  1. My average word count is around 2k but I’ve had some chapters about 3k and a few like 1.7k? I try to keep them around the same length pace wise though? If that makes sense? lol

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    1. Hi Ellie! And yes, that makes total sense. I try to keep mine the same length too, for pacing and because I like the consistency of it. Sometimes a random outlier (a low word count or high word count chapter) will turn up, which is always fun too.

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  2. I have heard that chapter length for young adult novels should be shorter than adult novels. Is this true, and if so, is there a reason behind this?

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    1. Hi Nanette! I’ve heard this too, and I’m not sure as I’m not too familiar with the average word counts of adult novels. Even just our survey revealed the wide range of word counts of the WBP writers (all of us YA writers) and a google search showed that books like THE HUNGER GAMES and TWILIGHT have 3.7k and 4.5k averages, respectively. I’m sure adult novels also have a wide range in terms of chapter word count, A GAME OF THRONES vs. THE HANDMAID’S TALE. I definitely think looking at the books in the genre you’re writing can help gauge what the average word count is of that genre.

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    2. I think there’s something to be said that all genres are lumped together under the YA umbrella (where contemporary does tend to have shorter chapter lengths than speculative) but in the Adult world they can have Fantasy genre considered separate from literary fiction separate from mystery separate from Romance. So I will say that it’s hard to compare across the two. But in general, YA and kidlit does tend to have a faster pace (for example if you look at a fantasy YA it doesn’t have as much exposition world building as an epic Adult fantasy)

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