First Chapter Length?


Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 28

Thread: First Chapter Length?

  1. #1
    Member NerdyMJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    80
    Blog Entries
    19

    First Chapter Length?

    This is something I've been curious about a for while now. On another website I used to use, there was a rule that said you weren't allowed to upload if your first chapter was less than 10,000 words. I found this odd because it never occurred to me that there was a certain length that chapters should be. I always thought it was the authors' decision, and I've read lots of books with short first chapters -- YA mostly like Holes or the Maximum Ride series -- that were great and got rave reviews. I ended up leaving the site, but now I can never start work on a first chapter without questioning whether or not it's too long or short.
    What do you guys think?
    "Do you know what money can't buy? What you have now. Life." - Rurouni Kenshin

  2. #2
    I think an author should worry more about the story they're telling than how it gets divided up in the book. Let the divisions come naturally; there's no scientific or mathematical way of doing it. It's mostly about pacing, IMO, and that's something a writer has to feel.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

  3. #3
    My chapters tend to be less than 2k mostly. Making them about 5-8 pages on average. I do have a few that are more. Important scenes may get jacked up in word count to show importance, but I never force myself to explain a rug in the corner to achieve a higher word count.
    Buy the ticket take the ride.

  4. #4
    Member NerdyMJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    80
    Blog Entries
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by Cadence View Post
    I think an author should worry more about the story they're telling than how it gets divided up in the book. Let the divisions come naturally; there's no scientific or mathematical way of doing it. It's mostly about pacing, IMO, and that's something a writer has to feel.
    I already know all of this, which is the why the word count rule stuck as me odd on the other site.

    My chapters tend to be less than 2k mostly. Making them about 5-8 pages on average. I do have a few that are more. Important scenes may get jacked up in word count to show importance, but I never force myself to explain a rug in the corner to achieve a higher word count.
    I really wish I could say I'd never done that before.
    My chapters tend to run on the shorter side, being three or four pages at the shortest and ten at the most. I used really like everything to be fast-paced is the reason why, and now it's just a bad habit. I'm still getting used to trying the find middle ground where feels like it isn't too long or too short for me. I want to build up to whatever event is going to take place in that chapter, but I don't want to ramble on about it for twenty pages.
    "Do you know what money can't buy? What you have now. Life." - Rurouni Kenshin

  5. #5
    I think it depends on what the author is trying to accomplish in that chapter. Different tones and concepts need different word counts and lengths, in my opinion.

    Like Cadence said, I'd just focus more on what you're trying to tell and let it break up naturally. And if that means you need 10k words, go ahead. But if you need 500 words, more power to you.
    "Arithmetic, what can it do for you?"

  6. #6
    10k words seems like an awful lot....

    Word count generally only matters when the author has word count in mind. This leads to chapters which are either shorter or longer than they should be as an author beefs up or thins out a section to fit in with an established pattern. To me, every chapter tells a short story which fits within the theme of the over-arching story. Each chapter has a short introduction (something to establish setting, really), a build, a climax, and a resolution (loosely used, as the resolution should not "resolve" the problem until the very end of the story; instead it should serve to anchor the chapter as important and provide a means to advance the plot). So long as you can include these four things, you'll have a successful chapter regardless of word count. This is of course a basic view of things, so take it mildly, but it's a good place to start.
    Hidden Content at SPANK the CARP Fiction and Poetry

  7. #7
    Member NerdyMJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    80
    Blog Entries
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by thepancreas11 View Post
    10k words seems like an awful lot....

    Word count generally only matters when the author has word count in mind. This leads to chapters which are either shorter or longer than they should be as an author beefs up or thins out a section to fit in with an established pattern. To me, every chapter tells a short story which fits within the theme of the over-arching story. Each chapter has a short introduction (something to establish setting, really), a build, a climax, and a resolution (loosely used, as the resolution should not "resolve" the problem until the very end of the story; instead it should serve to anchor the chapter as important and provide a means to advance the plot). So long as you can include these four things, you'll have a successful chapter regardless of word count. This is of course a basic view of things, so take it mildly, but it's a good place to start.
    I agree.
    That's how I always thought of the process of writing chapters before I found that site. Word count never occurred to me as particularly important before then because, as I said, I read lots of great books with short chapters. I think I was just so intimidated by the people on that site that I just can't help but worry about those things now.
    That probably means I should focus less on chapter length and more writing a good story, so I can regain my confidence as a writer.
    "Do you know what money can't buy? What you have now. Life." - Rurouni Kenshin

  8. #8
    When I wrote my first book, 10k was about the length of my first chapter, and I thought upon reading it, that it was way too long. Not sure what that other site is or what its goal was, but it seems weird. I've since split that first chapter into two, and have found that my chapters are 3-4K on average; but that's just me. I do end the chapter when and only when it needs to end.
    If you ever need a second set of eyes on your work, PM me for a critique! I'm happy to help Hidden Content

  9. #9
    If I were to pick up a book in which the first chapter was 10K words, it had better be damn well written for me to keep reading.

    I find an author using that kind of chapter length is also using a whole lot of words that aren't particularly necessary. I find that (and this is just a personal thing) to be nothing more than a writer stroking his/her own ego. It's the whole "Look what I can do!" thing and it drives me bonkers.

    Of the first 20 or so chapters in my WIP, only a couple are more than 1500 words. Toward the middle chapters, they start to get a little longer. Still, though, none are over 4000 words.
    “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” -Carl Sagan

    Real courage is found, not in the willingness to risk death, but in the willingness to stand, alone if necessary, against the ignorant and disapproving herd. --Jon Roland, 1976

    Have you checked out the Hidden Content

    Founder of the Pantsers United Group and member of the Fantasy Lords Group

    "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful,
    insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows." - Walt Disney

  10. #10
    I already know all of this, which is the why the word count rule stuck as me odd on the other site.
    It's likely because some beginning writers will want to post massive things on forums, not realizing that they'll get much better feedback if they post smaller excerpts. The guideline is more for helping criticism, I think, not the craft itself.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.