Richard posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
My question is about novel structure and word counts. Using the Snowflake Method, I developed my story with multiple subplots that intersect meaningfully with the overall plot/theme. The result of my planning session created 12 chapters (3 each for act 1, 2a, 2b, and 3).
At 100k words, this averages around 8300 words per chapter. Since my story has multiple POVs, the chapters are currently broken into multiple scenes — anywhere from 500 to 2500 words each — all adding to the approximate 8300 word target count.
I’ve both seen and heard other writers that use single scenes for each chapter. So, my question is, what does the industry standard generally dictate? Should each 1500 word scene get its own chapter number? Or should I continue with the plan to keep chapter breaks dependant on significant story events rather than a switch in POV?
(Note: The mid-chapter POV changes keep the scenes in chronological order to prevent jarring the poor reader as this is intended for a YA audience.)
Randy sez: 1500 word scenes would be about six pages of manuscript and maybe 4 or 5 pages in the printed book, depending on page size and font size and all that. I shoot for an average of 2500 words per scene, so if I were writing your book, I’d probably have two scenes for most chapters. I’m not writing your book, so you get to decide. I’ve noticed that James Patterson has incredibly short chapters — a few pages each. I think with a YA novel, you might want to go with one scene per chapter. That makes it easy for your reader to decide to read “one more chapter.” And then another and then another.
There really isn’t any industry standard. Some authors like longer chapters. Some like shorter ones. It’s up to you. However, there is an industry average, and it seems to be about 8 to 10 pages, give or take a little.
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