How many words are in a chapter?

This was one of the first writing questions that I ever typed into Google. When I started writing SECTOR12, I remember getting most of a chapter down and then wondering what I should be aiming for. How long is a chapter? How many words is a good length?

So I Google’d it. Most of the answers were along the lines of “Don’t worry about it, just write your story, chapters vary in length”. An answer that really didn’t work for me because when I want to know something – I want to know it.

Since that time, I’ve decided that a good chapter length for me is 4,000 words. That way, if I’m writing a 70,000 word novel, I know I have to plan for around seventeen chapters.

How many words are in your chapters? And don’t be like other sites and say ‘chapters vary’. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but what do you aim for? If everyone gives an answer, then I can average them off and have a solid ‘This is how long a chapter should be’ answer 🙂 Let’s talk about chapter length.

Meanwhile, just a quick Camp Nanowrimo update. How are all my fellow campers doing? I have about 23,000 words down and the first five chapters. Things are coming along nicely. I hope everyone else is doing well too.

On a side note, my mum (being the proud mum that she is) entered me in the Best Australian Blogging Awards. So if you have a spare couple of seconds, feel free to vote for me. I’m listed as Jodie Llewellyn.

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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114 Responses to How many words are in a chapter?

  1. JM Cogdell says:

    Thanks for the info, but most of all thanks for finding my blog. I love your blog and will be an avid follower.

    Like

  2. JM Cogdell says:

    Thanks for the info, but most of all thanks for finding my blog. I love your blog and will be an avid follower.

    Like

  3. Olga Godim says:

    My chapters are usually the same size as my short stories: from 3,000 to 5,000 words. The more important question is: where to end a chapter. Should it be a mini-cliffhanger or should it be the end of a scene, an episode, a dialog, any kind of ending?

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  4. Olga Godim says:

    My chapters are usually the same size as my short stories: from 3,000 to 5,000 words. The more important question is: where to end a chapter. Should it be a mini-cliffhanger or should it be the end of a scene, an episode, a dialog, any kind of ending?

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  5. For me it’s about four or five scenes, sometimes more or less. I don’t actually plan it that way, but that’s generally how long it takes me to say what I wanted to say in that chapter, and to prepare the soil for what happens next. For me a chapter ends with some stepping stone in the story, a conclusion or a beginning that leads to what happens next. You’ll know it when it happens.

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  6. For me it’s about four or five scenes, sometimes more or less. I don’t actually plan it that way, but that’s generally how long it takes me to say what I wanted to say in that chapter, and to prepare the soil for what happens next. For me a chapter ends with some stepping stone in the story, a conclusion or a beginning that leads to what happens next. You’ll know it when it happens.

    Like

  7. davemstrom says:

    I prefer shorter chapters with cliffhanger endings (or a punchline): the old DaVinci Code trick, gets readers to turn the page. I am aiming for about 100,000 words in my novel, and I am planning on about 42 chapters. Was it Woody Allen who said to improve a joke, make it shorter? My chapters tend to be one scene.

    I am about to try publishing a short story on Kindle. It is about 6500 words. Feels too long, but I have noodled with it long enough. I think next time, I’ll try bundling two short stories together to add up to 5000-6000 words or so.

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  8. davemstrom says:

    I prefer shorter chapters with cliffhanger endings (or a punchline): the old DaVinci Code trick, gets readers to turn the page. I am aiming for about 100,000 words in my novel, and I am planning on about 42 chapters. Was it Woody Allen who said to improve a joke, make it shorter? My chapters tend to be one scene.

    I am about to try publishing a short story on Kindle. It is about 6500 words. Feels too long, but I have noodled with it long enough. I think next time, I’ll try bundling two short stories together to add up to 5000-6000 words or so.

    Like

  9. 94,000 words, 8 chapters plus Introduction plus Intermission, Part One (there will be a sequel). First chapters are relatively short, then they get significantly longer mid-way through. Seems to be effective, in that the initial short chapters pique a reader’s interest and it keeps them engaged through the longer, later chapters.

    Unless one is a brilliantly disciplined writer, have a plan that includes chapters and chapter words counts. But remember the old military adage: no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

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  10. 94,000 words, 8 chapters plus Introduction plus Intermission, Part One (there will be a sequel). First chapters are relatively short, then they get significantly longer mid-way through. Seems to be effective, in that the initial short chapters pique a reader’s interest and it keeps them engaged through the longer, later chapters.

    Unless one is a brilliantly disciplined writer, have a plan that includes chapters and chapter words counts. But remember the old military adage: no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

    Like

  11. cgcoppola says:

    There are a few ways to answer this question — to me at least. I normally don’t think about word count but, if anything, I pay attention to the number of pages I’ve written. I write single spaced, 12 in Calibri and once I’m reaching the tenth page park or just passing it, I take a step back and ask myself if I’ve accomplished what I need to in the chapter. Every chapter is a mini story, right? Or about something specific, so as long as I feel it’s done what it needs to, I’m fine. Sometimes it’s six pages, other times, 12, if there’s more that needs to occur. There is no exact science since it’s art. It’s whatever you feel is the finished work.

    Like

  12. cgcoppola says:

    There are a few ways to answer this question — to me at least. I normally don’t think about word count but, if anything, I pay attention to the number of pages I’ve written. I write single spaced, 12 in Calibri and once I’m reaching the tenth page park or just passing it, I take a step back and ask myself if I’ve accomplished what I need to in the chapter. Every chapter is a mini story, right? Or about something specific, so as long as I feel it’s done what it needs to, I’m fine. Sometimes it’s six pages, other times, 12, if there’s more that needs to occur. There is no exact science since it’s art. It’s whatever you feel is the finished work.

    Like

  13. I aim for a minimum of 2,500 words and if it takes more, than so be it.

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  14. I aim for a minimum of 2,500 words and if it takes more, than so be it.

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  15. My chapters tend to be about 3500 words with my longest being about 5200 and my shortest around 2500.

    Grats on the excellent progress in NaNoWriMo.

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  16. My chapters tend to be about 3500 words with my longest being about 5200 and my shortest around 2500.

    Grats on the excellent progress in NaNoWriMo.

    Like

  17. JF Owen says:

    I average about 3500 words per chapter, but that is truly an average. The actual range is from 2500 to 7500. As I suspect most writers do, I write until the scene is finished.

    As a parent, how could I ignore your mum’s efforts? Tell her I voted for you. 🙂

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  18. JF Owen says:

    I average about 3500 words per chapter, but that is truly an average. The actual range is from 2500 to 7500. As I suspect most writers do, I write until the scene is finished.

    As a parent, how could I ignore your mum’s efforts? Tell her I voted for you. 🙂

    Like

  19. Sana Rose says:

    What I think is, it’s important to have an outline rather than a word count. Like, we have to be sure of what all events are to be included in each chapter. That way, we keep our pen on track. The novel I am editing now was a monstrous 2,45,000 words long book. That’s as thick as Mitchell’s Gone with the wind. Not practical in today’s world as a first novel. So my book which has about five sections had shorter chapters in the first section (first15 chapters) which were good 4000 avg worded lengths. And the second section being the longest part of the book amd the backstory, had longer chapters of avg 6k words. But going by the rule “just get it done” I had an elephantine book for a contemporary relationship novel in today’s market with 45 chapters + an epilogue and 245k word count. Laughing stock of agents and publishers who didn’t have to read past the first para of query letters. :D.
    However upon cutting down the first section became 14 chapters instead of initial 15. And each chapter is 1000-2000 and maximum 3000 words long. And section two thus came down to an avg of 4k from 6 k.
    My chapter number is still 45 and I skipped the epilogue title n made it 45.
    So maybe, just keep the outline in mind and write, having a number of chapters in mind is good, and an avg word count goal is also good as long as it doesn’t hinder your first draft’s craziness. First draft is meant to be crazy n crude n with more things to omit than keep in future.
    As long as the essence of your book is kept, follow the plan and structure in word count. But it would be kind of handicapping to be on guard regarding word count once you start writing. 🙂 In the end when you edit you can always find hoardes of words to reduce keeping the story intact. But you can only write that true crazy first draft once. The essence is created in the first draft which is an uncontrollable monster. And it is telling yourself the story, so it has to be crude and natural. And take its own life.
    All the best with the endeavour! Let’s keep penning! 🙂

    Like

  20. Sana Rose says:

    What I think is, it’s important to have an outline rather than a word count. Like, we have to be sure of what all events are to be included in each chapter. That way, we keep our pen on track. The novel I am editing now was a monstrous 2,45,000 words long book. That’s as thick as Mitchell’s Gone with the wind. Not practical in today’s world as a first novel. So my book which has about five sections had shorter chapters in the first section (first15 chapters) which were good 4000 avg worded lengths. And the second section being the longest part of the book amd the backstory, had longer chapters of avg 6k words. But going by the rule “just get it done” I had an elephantine book for a contemporary relationship novel in today’s market with 45 chapters + an epilogue and 245k word count. Laughing stock of agents and publishers who didn’t have to read past the first para of query letters. :D.
    However upon cutting down the first section became 14 chapters instead of initial 15. And each chapter is 1000-2000 and maximum 3000 words long. And section two thus came down to an avg of 4k from 6 k.
    My chapter number is still 45 and I skipped the epilogue title n made it 45.
    So maybe, just keep the outline in mind and write, having a number of chapters in mind is good, and an avg word count goal is also good as long as it doesn’t hinder your first draft’s craziness. First draft is meant to be crazy n crude n with more things to omit than keep in future.
    As long as the essence of your book is kept, follow the plan and structure in word count. But it would be kind of handicapping to be on guard regarding word count once you start writing. 🙂 In the end when you edit you can always find hoardes of words to reduce keeping the story intact. But you can only write that true crazy first draft once. The essence is created in the first draft which is an uncontrollable monster. And it is telling yourself the story, so it has to be crude and natural. And take its own life.
    All the best with the endeavour! Let’s keep penning! 🙂

    Like

  21. Sana Rose says:

    And like many above said, maybe chapter is a scene oriented thing than a length thing. When a scene changes, or POV chnges, a new chapter begins. Not my way coz I do scene and pov changes within chapters too. It’s the distinct voices tht matter. These vary in different genres. Like Dan Brown novels that have many short chapters but it compliments the spontaneity and fast pace of thriller genre. Many factors to consider but in the end it’s about what you are comfy with. 🙂

    It’s practical – what you did – to take part in NaNoWriMo and such contests. Or it would be difficult to keep to the rules of the contest as the word count is 50K and all we have 30 days.

    Like

  22. Sana Rose says:

    And like many above said, maybe chapter is a scene oriented thing than a length thing. When a scene changes, or POV chnges, a new chapter begins. Not my way coz I do scene and pov changes within chapters too. It’s the distinct voices tht matter. These vary in different genres. Like Dan Brown novels that have many short chapters but it compliments the spontaneity and fast pace of thriller genre. Many factors to consider but in the end it’s about what you are comfy with. 🙂

    It’s practical – what you did – to take part in NaNoWriMo and such contests. Or it would be difficult to keep to the rules of the contest as the word count is 50K and all we have 30 days.

    Like

  23. britsoda says:

    I’m working on my first young adult novel right now… I’ve written short stories before, and because of that, I feel like I have no concept of chapters. I paid a lot of attention to the anatomy of my chapters at first, but now I’m just writing. I think that for someone who’s new to the novel world, it’s important to just sort of express all of your thoughts. As a reader, however, I typically like chapters that are short-ish… 1,500 to 2,000 words each.

    Like

  24. britsoda says:

    I’m working on my first young adult novel right now… I’ve written short stories before, and because of that, I feel like I have no concept of chapters. I paid a lot of attention to the anatomy of my chapters at first, but now I’m just writing. I think that for someone who’s new to the novel world, it’s important to just sort of express all of your thoughts. As a reader, however, I typically like chapters that are short-ish… 1,500 to 2,000 words each.

    Like

  25. egehlin says:

    My chapters vary based on pace of story and the information I need to convey to the reader. The first chapters in my work tend to be short, middle chapters longer and the last few chapters short. Don’t know why it works out that way, Never gave it much thought, Maybe just my story-telling style.

    Looking back, the shortest chapter I ever wrote was about 500 words…the longest was probably around 3500 words (got a little carried away).

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  26. egehlin says:

    My chapters vary based on pace of story and the information I need to convey to the reader. The first chapters in my work tend to be short, middle chapters longer and the last few chapters short. Don’t know why it works out that way, Never gave it much thought, Maybe just my story-telling style.

    Looking back, the shortest chapter I ever wrote was about 500 words…the longest was probably around 3500 words (got a little carried away).

    Like

  27. barn7777 says:

    Love the quote. I don’t know that average or exact word count for each chapter. To be honest, I never thought much about it, but they always tend to be around 10 pages each with my 2 completed stories have around 40 chapters. After doing some quick math, I think my chapters average around 3000 words.

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  28. barn7777 says:

    Love the quote. I don’t know that average or exact word count for each chapter. To be honest, I never thought much about it, but they always tend to be around 10 pages each with my 2 completed stories have around 40 chapters. After doing some quick math, I think my chapters average around 3000 words.

    Like

  29. Lisa Thomson says:

    Vonnegut had chapters as short as one page. I think it really depends on the pace you want to set. Also, if you are switching points of view or timelines often, it’s nice to give the reader a break. Just my two cents. My chapters seem to range between 3,000 and 5,000 words.

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  30. Lisa Thomson says:

    Vonnegut had chapters as short as one page. I think it really depends on the pace you want to set. Also, if you are switching points of view or timelines often, it’s nice to give the reader a break. Just my two cents. My chapters seem to range between 3,000 and 5,000 words.

    Like

  31. gregg says:

    To tell the truth, I have no idea how long a chapter is meant to be – I just write a’part ‘ each morning , and hope I can determine when to stop. Usually, I write 13-15 parts per chapter, sometimes it’s just one. 1500 words per ‘part’ – 15 parts = 22,500 per chapter! And with my current effort at 9 chapters , and a long way from the finish tape , maybe I should get a better understanding of ‘chapters’ 🙂

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  32. gregg says:

    To tell the truth, I have no idea how long a chapter is meant to be – I just write a’part ‘ each morning , and hope I can determine when to stop. Usually, I write 13-15 parts per chapter, sometimes it’s just one. 1500 words per ‘part’ – 15 parts = 22,500 per chapter! And with my current effort at 9 chapters , and a long way from the finish tape , maybe I should get a better understanding of ‘chapters’ 🙂

    Like

  33. fireflyin says:

    I originally planned for my chapters to be between 4.5 and 6k. I’ve done pretty good keeping it that way except for a few where I go a bit longer. I think my last chapter is almost 10k?

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  34. fireflyin says:

    I originally planned for my chapters to be between 4.5 and 6k. I’ve done pretty good keeping it that way except for a few where I go a bit longer. I think my last chapter is almost 10k?

    Like

  35. I usually average somewhere between 2,000 – 3,000.

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  36. I usually average somewhere between 2,000 – 3,000.

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  37. tonygraff12 says:

    In reality, though, chapters do vary, and should. Look at Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson. Some of those are only a page or two long. Then you get into some of Terray Pratchett’s novels, where there are maybe four chapters in the entire book.

    As for me personally, I don’t gauge my chapters by word count, but I try to stay in the range of 12 to 15 manuscript pages.

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  38. tonygraff12 says:

    In reality, though, chapters do vary, and should. Look at Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson. Some of those are only a page or two long. Then you get into some of Terray Pratchett’s novels, where there are maybe four chapters in the entire book.

    As for me personally, I don’t gauge my chapters by word count, but I try to stay in the range of 12 to 15 manuscript pages.

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