The concurring answer I received is, "The length of a string."
But is that really the answer? I don't think so. I visited many articles today and heard of 40,000 word chapters and one sentence chapters. Writers can do what they want, but should they?
Below is a compilation of advice:
- In adult fiction, the recommended chapter length is 5000 words or less. Adult readers average 20 minutes reading before bed. They like to end with a chapter break. The average adult reads 250 words per minute, therefor a chapter should not exceed 5000 words. (20 minutes x 250=5000).
- Children who read chapter books average 150 words per minute. The recommended chapter length is 3000 words or less.
- Bedtime reading aside, more breaks in a story are less irritating to readers than less breaks.
- The younger the reader, the shorter the chapters.
- Chapter breaks are expected with POV changes, time changes, or scenery changes.
- Chapters are mini-stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Readers expect to be satisfied and left wanting more at the same time.
- Chapters are best ended in cliffhangers (physical or emotional).
- Readers prefer predictable patterns with chapter lengths in a given book.
- Chapters follow the pacing of the story. Short chapters mark action/climatic moments and long chapters mark descriptive/plot-building prose.
- A chapter has a life of it's own and it's over when it's over.
So after all this research, the answer is as simple as "the length of a string" or as complicated as math. I prefer chapters under 3000 words, but I write for kids.
What do you think?
Do you plan your chapter lengths?