Wednesday, June 9, 2010

THE PERFECT LENGTH… (and a contest)

(Miami in February is a lot like Iowa in June...)
It’s WIP Wednesday and I’ve been pondering over something…

What is the perfect word count for a middle grade novel chapter?

Do you keep track of your word count by chapter? Are your chapters all about the same length?

When you read do you like long chapters or short ones?

One last thing (because my brain is shutting down after editing a rhyming picture book manuscript for what seems like the entire day) …Have you entered my contest?

26 comments:

Sandy Shin said...

I'm not quite sure what's the proper chapter length for a MG or even an YA novel. I do try to keep mine even, however, and aims for 3-5k every chapter. Most often 4k.

When I read, I don't tend to notice chapter lengths much unless they go on forever or are very short. Which, I believe, is a good thing. Because readers might not notice my own chapters' lengths, either. :)

Joanne said...

When I read, I don't mind longer chapters, but not consistently. A really short one thrown in adds a little punch to the reading rhythm.

Janet Johnson said...

My MG WIP tends to have 5 to 8 pages. I don't think there's a perfect length though.

I do notice length when I read, and usually wish they were shorter.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I don't know about mg, so I'm completely unhelpful. But for YA someone once told me a chapter shouldn't be (rule of thumb here, and rules are made to be broken, right?) less than five pages or more than twenty. I usually go with page numbers when I'm trying to even out my chapter lengths.

When I'm reading, I definitely prefer short chapters. Usually a book with short chapters is hard to put down because you think, "Okay, I'll just read one more...." :)

Amy

Susan Fields said...

I love shorter chapters. Longer chapters are a little daunting to me. I read books out loud to my children, and in that case I definitely appreciate chapters of consistent length.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Some of my chapters are longer than others. It all depends on what is happening in the story and what you need to draw emphasis to. The length of your book sometimes has to do with the publisher you're writing for. My Christmas book was 100 pages and that seemed to work. Still check with the publisher's guidelines. :)

Lydia Kang said...

My chapters are roughly 10 pages. But that's just an average. Many are super short, but I rarely make them really long. I'm afraid I'll bore the reader or something!

Nora MacFarlane said...

YALitChat talked about wordcount tonight. Most people thought 50k -90k was typical YA. I don't know about MG.

I write in Scrivener, so it keeps track of my chapter/novel wordcounts. Most of my chapters (YA) are about 1800 words, although I've one at 2627 and one at 1071.

As far as preference when I'm reading, as long as the chapter is interesting, I don't think about the length.

Tess said...

I used to go with an average of 10 pages per chapter, but learned in my last round of edits that it is too long and needs to be in the 5-8 range.

Overall word count varies and I was told not to worry too much about that number. I used to think 45k, but my novel is 56k and not a problem. And, some classics like Missing May and Sarah Plain and Tall were much, much shorter.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The chapters for my YA novel range from 1400 to 4200 words. The longer ones are broken up into several scenes.

I like short chapters, except then it makes the book extremely hard to put down. It's so easy to say, "One more chapter." (as someone else has already noted).

As for length. I have no idea for MG. My YA romantic suspense is about 79,000 words.

Jacqueline said...

I think if the rhythm of the chapter is flowing, it doesn't matter how long it is because it holds the reader's attention.

Jeff King said...

around 10 to 15 pages works for me, since i use chapters for breaks in reading.

if i had to put a word count to it... probably 3000 words would be good.

Vicki Rocho said...

If the chapter is action packed, I don't notice how long it is. Otherwise, I prefer them on the shorter side so I feel like I've got some momentum in the book.

Old Kitty said...

Hi

I don't really have a chapter length preference! I think as a reader if I'm really involved with the story in the chapter, I forget its length. But sometimes, I find myself counting the pages and wishing the chapter was shorter! LOL!

Good luck with your contest!!
Take care
x

Clara said...

Oh I am definetly a word count person, chapters have an average of 7 pages, and Im a major fan of short chapters.

Jen said...

I'm not a word count person though I do watch it. It shows more of an accomplishment then a goal I'm actually working towards. I really just write and hope that I end up somewhere in the middle of my goal and my "the worst possible position" place.

Jill Kemerer said...

I don't know. I guess it would depend on the genre. Kids tend to like sweeping fantasy-type books, but a coming of age might be better with less pages.

I write romance and I keep my chapters to around 10-12 pages.

Lenny said...

im a middle schooler and mostly i dont like long chapters unless something real cool is going on. for my writing i just end off a chapter when it feels done and like its time for a little stop before doin the next one. i dont count words cause i dont like thinking i gotta stop writing or write more cause of how many words i did. its like i dont measure out how much peanut butter and jelly i put on my sandwich. no matter how much or how little it always tastes pretty good. ha ha ...hugs from lenny

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Sandy--Thanks! 4K is a lot of words! I figure an MG should be less...

Joanne--I like shorter chapters myself.

Janet--Thanks. I hope my chapters aren't too short, but if they are I can always go back once I've finished the draft and add more.

Amy--You are so right! Last night I was reading one of Donna Aviles books and her chapters are pretty short and I kept on reading until midnight... (I'm paying for that today!)

Talli Roland said...

Gosh, I'm not sure! For me, I keep track of overall word count. And I try not to worry about it tooooo much (as hard as it is!).

Love that photo of Miami!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Susan--Thanks! I'm hoping someone will give me a word count...

Kathi--I hadn't noticed anything about chapter guidleines on any of the publishing companies I've researched. I wonder if it's different because you write for adults???

Lydia--Thanks for sharing!I'm beginning to think what I'm doing is too short...

Nora--I don't know what scrivner is...I'll have to google that! Right now my chapters are about 1000 words each. I'm writing scene by scene, so perhaps when I'm done I can combine some of them.

Tess--Thanks for sharing about your edits and suggested chapter lengths. I forgot about books like Sarah Plain and Tall...(I'm feeling a bit better about my chapters now.)

Stina--Thanks...I have no idea how many words it will be when I'm done...Hopefully, the girls will get back to at least one of their parents by about 50K. :)

Jacqueline--I think that's why writing scene by scene feels right to me.

Jeff--I think you write for adults, don't you?

Vicki--Right now my mg is pretty action packed...it's the middle of the Blitz! I get physically exhausted after I finish a chapter.

Jennifer--That's a good point...too long can be a struggle for me too.

Clara--Thanks, I'm feeling a bit more encouraged. :)

Jen--I hadn't really started worrying about it until I got to this chapter...I thought I was done and I looked at the word count and it was only 670! I was able to come up with a new ending and bring it up to about 900.

Jill--Thanks...I think it does make a difference on your audience and your subject.

Lenny--Great point! I should write until it feels like I'm ready to move on to a new scene. :) You are one brilliant middle-schooler!

Talli--Thanks for dropping in...I'm glad you like the picture. It was taken from the deck of the cruise liner we were on back in February.

THANKS EVERYONE!

Hema P. said...

Hmm... I've often heard that an optimum length for a middle grade MS is not more than 60k words. However, it's just another rule, right, though that rule probably came into existence keeping in mind the average reader's attention span...

I try to keep my chapters more or less the same length, though there have been a few deviations.

As for what length I like as a reader, surprisingly, length never was a criterion for me until I started writing myself. So, any length is good for me as long as it moves the story forward!

Great questions, Sharon!

Jeff King said...

I do... but I am familiar with the genre.

Terri Tiffany said...

I end the chapter where I think it should end despite word count but I really like short ones best.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Hema--Thanks for stopping in. I really enjoyed reading your post yesterday and critiquing chapter 1 of your WIP.

Jeff--Thanks!

Terri--I like shorter chapters when I'm reading too. :)

Stephen Tremp said...

My chapters are generally 3-5 pages. Most people do not want to read anything much longer. I don't keep track of word count per chapter, only the book as a whole. Oh, and I divide up my books into Part I, Part II, PArt III, and Part IV.

Stephen Tremp