Progress Report #38

The tides have taken me away from writing and blogging. I’ve been doing research for the book (something I love to do) and working on the structure, the outline, for the third and final draft. The actual writing of the third draft won’t begin for another year yet, except for a few sections I’ll be working on in Europe just three weeks from now. I’ve been feeling that I need to have an idea of the outline for at least the early sections of the book so that the work I do in Europe can correspond to it. I’ve been moving away from long chapters and toward shorter chapters. In the current conception, some will be very short, some will be like the shorter chapters of a regular book. I’m doing this primarily out of aesthetic considerations, although I often think that, given the shortening of attention spans in general, it might be a good idea on that basis alone.

I have a question for anybody who cares to respond: When you read a book, how do you feel about short versus long chapters? I’ll end up doing what I end up doing, but I’d like to know what others think.

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8 Responses to “Progress Report #38”

  1. Rob Phillips Says:

    I prefer a mix of both short and long.
    I think having chapters of varying lengths is good, from my point of view.

  2. Thoma Lile Says:

    For me, chapter lengths should be determined by the content or the pacing of the text. If the chapters seem too long, maybe it’s because the content should be broken down into sub parts. A chapter shouldn’t end up being a volume! If a chapter seems too short, maybe it’s because the material is undeveloped or belongs with the material of another chapter.

    I’ve read books that had chapters that were one page long. They were perfect, because they accomplished what they were intended to accomplish. I guess I’ve never really noticed long chapters.

    Some of the popular writers of our day break their chapters up so that each one tends to be a cliffhanger that encourages a read to the other chapter. The DaVinci Code was like that. It’s a nice technique, I think, even it if it is predictable. But keeping the reader’s attention like that is part and parcel of writing fiction. Toned down, it might be a nice technique for nonfiction.

  3. Erin Hyden Says:

    I believe that any writing is complete when fully developed. As a writer it is often difficult to know when to stop, especially when you are so emotionally involved with the topic. Also when you’ve been looking at it for such a long time it’s hard to know when it’s time to move on. I generally enjoy shorter to medium chapters because I have worked as a journalist. We are taught to minimize the fluff that can often clutter the real message. I also believe chapter length depends on the overall voice of the story. For instance if you are writing about a fast and furious time in your life, shorter chapters may lend to the idea of urgency. If you are focusing on a period defined my calm and reflection, a longer but not too long chapter may be necessary. I hope this was in some way either helpful or interesting. See you at RJs. Oh and please check out my blog if you get a chance. It’s erinseverydayetiquette.blogspot.com. I too appreciate comments.

  4. Margaret Says:

    A chapter should be as long as it needs to be, maybe with very short vignettes in between chapters. Ernest Hemingway did this with his first book, In Our Time, which was published as fiction but which was heavily autobiographical. The mix of longish chapters divided by short vignettes–just a page or two–is interesting, and keeps the reader alert. Also the short length is perfect when you’ve had an experience or impression that’s really vital, and you want the reader to take special note of it, but it’s not appropriate for a full chapter.

  5. Donnie May Says:

    I like chapers that I can finish in a 30 to 40 minute time span. Generally I read during my lunch break at work, which is supposed to be 1 hr. But usually is shorter due to various interrruptions.

    • Jared Says:

      This is a really good point — I agree. If the chapter has marked breaks in it as well that pace it out to 30-40 minutes this is good too, especially if the nature of the chapter requires that it be longer.

  6. Shelley Says:

    Obviously the chapter’s purpose needs to be complete, whatever length that needs to be; however, I also think the length depends on the IMPACT of the chapter. Is it a bridge chapter? Can it stand on it’s own?

  7. Sharon Says:

    Interesting question. I don’t think I’ve ever given any thought to the length of a chapter. If I’m into a book, it makes absolutely no difference to me. I’ve noticed that I do like spacing within a chapter — literally, more white space between sections of a chapter (no subtitles, just space), indicating a break of some sort from one part of the chapter to the next. It doesn’t have anything to do with thoughts about the nature of writing, however. I suspect it has more to do with both disciplining myself to put the book down at a certain point and how easily I can figure out where to continue when I open the book again.

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