Chapter by Chapter

Normally, I write by word count. If I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I determine that each chapter is going to be 2000 words. Sometimes that means I have to expand the chapter and put more into it, and sometimes that means I have to take things out in order to meet that word count. I’d rather my first drafts be very long, rather than not long enough. For me, it’s easier to take away unnecessary text than to add more text.

But this time around, when I’m rewriting, I’m not giving myself any particular word count for chapters or scenes. I stop writing the chapter or scene when I feel like it’s finished and there’s nothing more to add. In a way, this is working out well for me, but in a way, I feel like the chapters and scenes are too short. None of them have been more than 1500 words so far – and that feels funny because I’m so used to writing 2000-word sections at a time.

In a few of the books I’ve read on novel writing, they tell you that the chapter and scene lengths should vary, so that the reader doesn’t get bored reading long chapter after long chapter – or that with too many short chapters, the pace ends up being choppy.

I suppose everything will come to light when I finish this particular round of rewrites and read the story over again. Perhaps the chapters will have a more natural flow… or maybe I’ll find out that the pacing is far too fast and I need to somehow slow it down.

All I know is that it feels funny being finished with the chapter, then looking at my word count and seeing that it’s only 1200 words or so. Strange…

4 thoughts on “Chapter by Chapter

  1. I tend to look at page numbers and stick to a similar number so not too short or long but then word count varies a lot as dialogue takes up space but not words. Not sure there’s a right or a wrong way here, I guess it’s trial and error! Good luck!

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  2. I mostly haven’t paid much attention to word counts (the result being that one novel has chapters of mostly the same length, and the other has chapters which vary very widely — I think different stories just need to be told differently).

    With my new project, I am paying attention to word count, since I don’t want it to be too long.

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  3. I haven’t really gotten past planning for a novel yet so I’m not completely sure how I would do it. I think that I would not use a word count and just end a chapter when it feels right and then see if I should change the length when I revise. I look forward to hearing how it works for you.

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