Some will tell you that 2,500 words is the average, while others will tell you that chapters of 3,000 to 5,000 words are more likely to be the norm. Most people think that less than 1,000 words is too short, while more than 5,000 words is too lengthy. Chapters should be between 3,000 and 5,000 words in length as a general rule.
Words mean different things to different writers. For purposes of this article, we will use page counts. A page count is simply the number of words on a page - not including blank pages. Some books have more useful information on each page - such as illustrations or tables - so they may have longer pages than other books. For now, we will ignore these additional elements and assume that all books are the same size with the same amount of text per page.
According to some authors, a novel has three sections: an introduction, a middle, and an ending. Others divide up the work into smaller segments such as scenes or characters. Whatever terminology is used, understanding how words are divided up within the story can help writers understand what kind of word count they should expect to see at the end of their book.
The introduction should be no shorter than 15 pages and should offer a brief overview of the main characters, events, and themes within the story. The ending should also be brief but should leave room for readers to imagine what might happen next in the life of the characters.
We may derive some parameters from these figures: the average word count of a chapter is between 1,500 and 5,000 words, with 3,000-4,000 being the most common sweet spot. And considering that there are only so many words in the English language, this means that each writer has about the same amount of space to play with.
So if we assume that chapters usually contain between six and ten sections, that should give us a range for how long they can be. I said "usually" because it all depends on what kind of story you're writing. A novel can have multiple chapters, while a short story or novella can only have one. But even so, you can probably guess that your first chapter isn't going to take up half of the space available.
In fact, it's very likely that your chapter will be shorter than six pages. While a book page is usually around 8 inches by 11 inches, e-books display at a much smaller size, so if we look at the typical sample page as displayed by Amazon, it's about 2 inches by 3 inches. This means that your chapter will need to include quite a bit of content in just under two pages.
We looked at novels from various genres and times to determine how lengthy a chapter should be. There are chapters that are shorter or longer than this average; indeed, there are chapters as short as 100 words and others as long as 6,000.
In general, more important topics or incidents will likely take up more space in the narrative. A scene that recounts an exciting moment will probably need more words than one that tells us something about a character's personality. Episodes of television shows are usually between 10 and 20 minutes long. If we assume that a chapter of manga is like an episode of a television show, then a chapter should be around this length too.
Manga chapters used to be much longer than they are today. When manga was first created, it was hard for artists to express themselves visually so they would add lots of text to their drawings. This is why you might see very detailed pictures with hardly any words underneath them! As time went on, people started getting annoyed by this so the editors of manga magazines decided to limit how long a chapter could be. Now, the typical chapter length is about 200 words but there are chapters that are even shorter or longer.
They are all in agreement that the chapter length should be determined by the plot and that any chapter length goals you set are only recommendations.
As you can see, chapters should be short but they shouldn't be too short or it won't be clear what's going on in the chapter. Also note that there are exceptions to almost every rule so don't get caught up in trying to follow one rule to the letter!
The typical word count for a chapter is between 2,000 and 5,000 words, however it all depends on your tale. (We cannot stress this enough.) There are several novels that purposely manipulate the word counts of their chapters. So, instead of writing a chapter with one eye on your tale and the other on your word count, write a chapter with both eyes on your story. Then when you get to the end, look at how many words you have left to go.
If you think you might want to change or add something to your tale then writing short stories is probably better anyway. It's easier to add elements into a short story than it is into a long novel.
Also note that there is no right or wrong number of words per chapter. It just depends on what kind of story you are telling and how much space you have available.
For example, if you're writing for genres with word counts ranging from 80,000 to 89,999 words (i.e. Mainstream, Thriller, Horror, Romance, Suspense, Mystery, and Literary) and wish to stick to the 3,000–5,000 word count range per chapter, you'd probably need 16 to 30 chapters. This is assuming you want each chapter to be around 3,000 words long, which is a reasonable length for topics that don't require extensive development.
Here are some examples of chapters from books within this size range:
16 chapters: The Killer Angels, By Michael Koryta; The Last Detective, By Louise Penny
20 chapters: The Silence of the Lambs, By Thomas Harris; The Stand, By Stephen King
24 chapters: American Psycho, By Brett Easton Ellis; Insomnia, By Christopher Nolan
26 chapters: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson; Gladiator, By Jerry B. Jenkins
30 chapters: The Hunger Games, By Suzanne Collins; Infinite Jest, By David Foster Wallace
The number of chapters depends on how much detail you want to include and how long your audience will stay interested without getting bored or tired of the story. Generally, the more action-packed the book, the more chapters it will likely have.
There are no guidelines regarding chapter lengths or numbers. Chapter lengths appear to function well anywhere between 500 and 15,000 words, with many in the 1,000-6,000 range and 3,000-4,000 proving to be a sweet spot. When it comes to numbers, some stories only have one chapter while others have as many as six.
The shortest story I know of is "One Day" by Stephen King which only has one chapter consisting of one sentence. The longest story I know of is "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin which has six volumes so far. Each volume is a novel length story that can be read separately but offers a complete experience when taken as a whole.
Most fan fiction consists of two chapters. This allows for more story to be told in less time while still being able to cover new material. Some writers may even add additional chapters later if they come up with something better than what was planned initially.
There are no rules against having more than two chapters so long as you aren't going over eight chapters total. Some authors may even want to break their stories into several parts to keep readers interested until the next book comes out. However, it is recommended that you not go past two chapters since it can get confusing as to what is happening in each chapter.