Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pop quiz--Chapters

I've got to get back to editing, but it feels wrong not post today. I'm planning on completing my thorough run-through working with Diana's comments. It's been a few months since I tackled this manuscript, and I think I've made a lot of progress as a writer since the last time I worked on it, and I'd done a thorough rewrite then. I am discovering a lot of passive stuff for a first person narrative. I've got to do a search and find after I'm done. I've written out the "markers" I'm looking for to see if I've slipped back to passive voice. I'm also finding a moderate amount of "telling" rather than "showing" that I need to work on. Plus, there are just words I overuse. Cough *suddenly* cough.

Here is my list of top-offenders of passive and sloppy writing markers:

thought, wondered, imagined, "a little", felt, looked, walked, noticed, softly, quietly, seemed, then, suddenly, "pointed out", that, smiled, laughed, chuckled, grinned, knew, liked, grabbed, "my eyes", "my face", wanted, saw, expected, brought, turned, guessed, suspected, needed, gasped, hoped, shocked, confused, awkwardly, forcefully, frustrated.

Anyway, for those that like to give an opinion, today I only have one question. The husband is currently working through Artemus Fowl books which have seriously long chapters. Each book only has around ten chapters. On the other hand, I've read books--and I think Koontz does this--where some chapters are only one page long--so the final story might have fifty or more chapters.

So, pop quiz:

1. Do you like to read books with long or short chapters?

(a.) I like books with short chapters.
(b.) I like books with super long chapters.
(c.) The length doesn't matter as long as they break at location changes, mood changes, characters changes, etc.
(d.) 42
(e.) I don't care either way. I've never really noticed a preference.
(f.) Potatoes are good.
(g.) All of the above.

If you feel the need to explain, go for it.

BTW, the scoring will be much more forgiving than yesterday's questionnaire. No scores will lead to certain death--though you can be in a lot of pain before you are actually dead for the record. 1-127 will get a balloon sent to them media mail. 128-4,650 will eat food at some point during the next 24 hours. Those scoring negative--well, it'll be a surprise, but don't go there--seriously.

Okay, back to Honor Among Thieves.


  1. I like long chapters to have scene breaks so I can take a break. Otherwise, I have to stop in the middle of a scene. The short chapters (a few pages) are deadly 'cause it's too easy to say, "just one more." The next thing you know, you've read ten more chapters. :D

  2. My answer is mostly C. I say mostly because like you I've read books with twenty page chapters and others *cough* James Patterson *cough* with one page chapters. And if the book is good, who cares?

    Here's a reference for you, from http://www.writing4success.com/tipsheet33.htm

    "Unless you are working to a set of guidelines issued by the publisher, stop fretting about chapter length and start thinking in terms of scenes. You plan each scene to move the story forward (like scenes in a movie). You don't finish a scene until you have achieved what you set out to do.

    == Should Chapters All Be The Same Length? ==

    No. Chapters can vary enormously in length. It can be very effective to have a 20-page chapter followed by one of just two pages, if you need to establish a quick bit of background or briefly show what another character is up to.

    Chapter length is not really important. What *does* count is how well you keep the reader's attention in the current scene. Again, tap into your own reading experience. If the story has you totally absorbed, you'll keep reading no matter what length the chapters are."

    That's more than you probably wanted to know, but I hope it helped. Did I get extra credit?

  3. You did get extra credit, Diana. I'll give you all of the adverbs I cut today--all of them! No, really, you deserve them. Seriously.

    I should have answered my own question. I like shorter chapters--as long as they vary in length when they need to. If all the chapters were one page--my eyes would bleed. In kids' books, I think chapters should be shorter. The husband reads a chapter a night...and Artemis is killing him. The kids are getting an hour long "read" every night. Poor husband.

  4. Shorter chapters. Makes me feel like I'm whipping through the book.

  5. Wow, you got four thousand points for using the super secret mystery word for today's blog. It was "whipping." Shhh. I feel the same way, though. I think it actually enhances pacing if you get the chapters "right" for your book.

  6. BTW, this question was inspired because I was on an agent's blog and she/he said something like, "I was immediately turned off by the book's short chapters. You know how much I hate short chapters."

    It just made me wonder if I was odd for preferring the opposite.

  7. I just finished Donna Tartt's THE LITTLE FRIEND: 555 whopping pages divided into one short prologue and only 7 chapters.


    Granted, I was able to find "stopping points" as the POV shifted between one character and another, but I was still wildly aggravated by the lack of more chapters.

    So, I guess I'm going with A) shorter chapters.

    However, I am not a huge fan of seriously short chapters, either.

    (I know, picky-picky.)

  8. My answer is C. As long as the story breaks up into digestible parts and ends at logical places, the chapter lengths don't make a huge difference for me personally. (I hope I get to eat food within the next 24 hours .. although a balloon would be pretty nice.)

  9. Amber, only seven chapters at that length??? Whoa! That's nuts. At that point, you might as well just ditch the chapters entirely and go with the "parts with roman numerals" approach. Somehow, you ended up with a million points, so I'll have to rescore yours later.

    Julie, good answer (we all clap) You just made it within the cushion to eat food within the next 24 hours. Congratulations. Woo woo.

  10. As long as it feels right I'm usually okay with any length, but I feel like 10-12 pages is the right amount. I do get annoyed with short chapters.

    I.E. The Tangle Box by Terry Brooks. He has these long chapters 20+ pages long then goes to a chapter with a few paragraphs...Make up your mind man! And it just so happened that the chapters that were long were the characters I was bored with and the chapters that were freakin' short were the characters I wanted to hear more about. So every short chapter bugged me.

    Also when I give myself the "okay one more chapter," excuse I want to get bang for my buck. If it was only a page I'd be mad.

    Yes I am illogical, but when we are discussing Honor's books I feel like I'm in good company. Logic is overrated.

  11. 42! lol! Honestly, I don't mind long chapters as long as they keep a good pace. Short chapters are fine too. I'm easy. :)

  12. Jaime and Nisa both tied at 244. I know. What are the odds? It was definitely one of those moments where everything goes in slow motion and you can't believe your eyes.