How many chapters is enough, or too much?

DAgent

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
206
So, my current work in progress stands at around 82K words over 23 chapters, each around 10 to 14 pages, all setup to the recommended margins, font and font sizes I;ve found online.

And I'm only at this point got any of the protagonists (they've been split into two groups) anywhere near the end goal, and even then I don't think getting just one of even both groups there will end up resolving everything within one chapter.

And I did plan this out, very roughly, even broke down the plan by saying ot myself, ok, this part needs to happen in this chapter, this part happens in the next chapter, and so on. But of course, then I end up writing the thing and suddenly find a lot more interesting things coming to mind that need to be used, and while the plan hasn't gone completely out the window, it has extended things a fair bit. If I hadn't included those newer bits I'd probably have a WIP that is half as long as this one is, and still not be near the end goal.

But of course, this has me wondering, how many chapters is too many? Would a publisher baulk at a manuscript that is 120K words in total with 30 chapters? Would anyone here want to read a book that has that many chapters to it?
 

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
5,382
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
It is my opinion that putting limits on page number or word count or chapter number are all useless wastes of time.
I've recently read a lot of Dean Koontz's work and his more recent have small chapters some can be one or two pages and 400 to 800 words.
the total of a book I'm looking at in chapters is 163 chapters.
430 pages and around 166,000 words--give or take.

My first serious writing effort yielded somewhere over 700,000 words; which I ended up splitting into two books.
With a lot of editing one book was 250K plus and the other was 190kplus.
The first 250k was 24 chapters--the second 190k was 36 chapters.
Some pretty long chapters; however those were broken into several scene breaks.

As a sort of experiment and trying to make them more palatable, I separated the 250k book into three 110k books and broke those into 33 chapters each while also making the sequence of events more contiguously logical. The first novel was often stepping backwards to catch up to what was happening with the MC or other characters during the last long chapter.

I ended up splitting the three smaller 110k books into 33 chapters each-- as a sort of experiment to see how difficult it would be to give all the books the same number of chapters. Not hard at all.

So--as far as setting chapter limits--it seems that it is all pretty fluid and something you might want to worry about after you have the thing fully drafted and edited a few times.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
14,072
Location
nearly the New Forest
But of course, this has me wondering, how many chapters is too many? Would a publisher baulk at a manuscript that is 120K words in total with 30 chapters? Would anyone here want to read a book that has that many chapters to it?
The number of chapters is irrelevant, it's word count that's the issue with agents/publishers (and readers). As to which, I had a one-to-one with a publisher about 3 years ago, and she confirmed that I had to bring my 148k fantasy down to 120k, while an agent at the same event merely said I needed to lose a "few" thousand. So there is no strict limit that's written in stone, and I imagine that there may well be differences between SF and fantasy, with the latter being allowed a greater word count that the former.

But since you've not yet finished your novel, let alone made revisions/edits, there really is little point worrying about it at this point. Get it written, revised and beta-read, then see if it needs to be pruned and how heavily.
 

msstice

200 words a day = 1 novel/year
Joined
Mar 27, 2020
Messages
481
So, my current work in progress stands at around 82K words over 23 chapters, each around 10 to 14 pages, all setup to the recommended margins, font and font sizes I;ve found online.

And I'm only at this point got any of the protagonists (they've been split into two groups) anywhere near the end goal, and even then I don't think getting just one of even both groups there will end up resolving everything within one chapter.

I don't look at the chapters, or at the length (Mine usually come out to ~3000 words because that seems like the words I take to finish an "episode")

What would concern me, and this is because I write less, is that for me 82K (final draft) would be near the end of the story while for you it looks like the middle or even the beginning.
 

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
1,650
Location
The Netherlands
As a reader I couldn't care less how many chapters a novel has or how they are distributed across the story. It's mostly quality that matters to me and quantity, in words or chapters, is measured against its quality.
It seems to me that you worry about the wrong things while writing. Concentrate on writing your story first. That's the most important part. If it isn't good or not engaging enough even 1 chapter can be too much.
 

Astro Pen

Write now.
Supporter
Joined
Jan 24, 2020
Messages
1,571
Location
Wales UK
I ran to 40 chapters in 85,000 words. I tend to write fast paced novels so scenes change fast. Chapter count is a reflection of that.
I have written without chapters. It doesn't make a lot of difference to the story itself but I think having chapters helps you organise the thing, and since they have to have a beginning and end, they prevent any tendency to sprawl and blur. Compartmentalise events, if you like.
And, as @Steve Harrison says above, chapters give those who read when they go to bed 'bite size pieces'.

I have never used chapter titles though.
 
Last edited:

DAgent

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
206
So, this all got me thinking about page setup again. I've currently got margins and double spacing and what not setup based on what I found on line, but I decided to have a look over what's been done on other random books in my collection. I had found I had 23 lines of text on my pages, but other books I own have different numbers of lines per page.

A random Tom Clancy novel (Red Storm Rising published in 1987) had 40 but didn't look double spaced.

A JK Rowling book had 28, and looked double spaced and seems to be the standard for the Harry Potter books.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman's had 33, and looked double spaced.

An old book by Douglas Hill (Galactic Warlord published in 1979) had 35 and didn't look double spaced.

So I had a look around and found more advice on formatting, and I couldn't find the original articles I'd used before anymore. I did find different articles which gave mostly the same advice but did advise to have your borders set to 1 inch, previously I'd found advice to set it to 3 cms, and 1 inch is 2.54 cms so I reset my WIP to 2.54 and found the line count had only gone up to 24 lines per page.

However... it also had a knock on effect on reducing my overall page count per chapter by 1 full page, and left me just a bit confused as to what the real standard is, because I'd rather have my template set to that so I know I'm not putting my feet in the wrong place so to speak.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
14,072
Location
nearly the New Forest
I think you're confusing two different things. A manuscript is not the same as a book. The templates are not the same. The sizes of the pages are different, the spacing is different, the indentation is different, the actual font and size may well be different.

If you're thinking of submitting to agents and publishers, you have to use the standards for a manuscript.

And your page count is as irrelevant as your chapter count. It's the word count that is important for agents etc.

To be frank, I can't help thinking you're wasting rather too much time on things that are simply not relevant yet. Get the book written, revised -- multiple times if necessary -- and beta-read. When you've passed those hurdles, worry about cosmetic issues.
 

Pyan

De omnibus dubitandum...
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Jul 29, 2005
Messages
11,081
Location
Cumbria
As the old question asks: how long is a piece of string?
 

Similar threads


Top