We all know that so much of reading and writing is subjective. So in the next few weeks, I'm going to talk about some of those issues that come up that are really nothing more than personal preference. This week, I want to talk about chapter length.
I once had a publisher tell me that chapters had to be ten pages long. If you just smacked your forehead or rolled your eyes, you're not alone. I did the same thing. Hence, you won't find any of my books with that publisher. ;) So let me start by saying there is no rule about how long your chapters have to be. That's just crazy. And if you don't believe me, ask James Patterson. Some of his chapters are a page and a half long, and he makes much more money than I can even dream about. Okay, now that we've cleared that up, how do you know how long to make your chapters?
A good rule of thumb is to leave your chapter hanging at a point where the reader wants to turn the page and keep reading. But that could be four pages in, ten pages in, or fourteen pages in. This is where that subjectivity comes in. Personally, I love short chapters. I think they give you a feeling of accomplishment because you are seeing new chapter heading so often. That's me though. I know others who prefer longer chapters. And really that's the point. We can sit here and beat ourselves up to get to that "perfect" chapter length, but in reality, there is no such thing.
So don't stress if one chapter is shorter than the others. That means it should be. Trust the writer in you to know when those breaks need to occur. Readers will follow suit, and if they don't, then they aren't meant to be your fan, but plenty of others will be.
*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.