Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chapter and Story Length...

Ok, so I'm well and into my story, past what I thought would be a good break for the first chapter. Then I start looking at my word count. I'm at 1,750 for the first chapter. Sounds like a decent start, but its only like 4 pages long. So that doesn't feel quite right to me and I do a little digging to see what publishers look for in manuscripts.

I found this site to be a great resource (
Don't be put off because it says "Romance", even if you don't write romance, there are alot of general tips and tricks that come for readers of all sorts.

Things to remember if you plan on submitting a manuscript:
(check out the "Writing How To" Link, and then "Manuscript Preparation")

1. Standard manuscript format is in 12 pt. Courier Font, 10 words per line, 25 lines per page.
- Word can be set up this way by giving yourself 1" margins all the way around, and instead of just double-spacing, you can set it to either 1.5 or "Exactly" and type 25 pt. in "Paragraph" options. I have numbered my lines as well just to make sure I'm where I need to be.
(So this right there doubles my page count, right? ok, so now I'm up to 8 pages.)

2. Start each chapter with a chapter heading about halfway down the page. (9 pages now)

3. At this point, it is important to remember that an editor will count each page as 250 words, whether the page is full or not. This probably bumps up actual word count in many cases. (This makes 1750 look like 2250).

4. Guidelines for various publishing houses vary, so it is important you're targeting the right kind or you just end up on the "slush pile", so make sure you check that your story is compatible and marketed in the right places. (My particular genre for this story is falling under "Fantasy Romance", and even within this there are variations. I am aiming for a pretty good sized novel, so I am aiming for 75,000 words, which seems to be about mid-line. Great, only 72,250 more to go!)

5. Chapter length can vary, but for a decent sized novel (100,000 words), average chapters break around 15 pages. (Uh oh... Some more quick math says that if my average chapter is the same size as what I have now, I will need 33 chapters. I have a basic outline of the action I foresee for my characters, and I am only getting to 24 chapters, plus a Prologue and an Epilogue, could it be I don't have enough material????)

Ok, so I'm not super stressing, because right now, the point of my writing is just to get it out there... I know very well that with my fellow blogger's help and my own critical eye, I will be hacking and slashing, adding and embellishing, and my story will be fully fleshed, but just for safety's sake, for now, I am combining what I feel should be Chapter Two into One. This isn't too bad of a stretch, it's really just a change of POV (point of view), so now I think I can establish a pattern. If each chapter spends some time with each main character, (for the most part) it approximately doubles the chapter length.
Following this plan so far, I am now at a first chapter length I am somewhat happy with, 14 pages, with Word's count falling at 3,540, an editor's count would be 3,500. All the same, I think it still needs some work. Please don't think by any means anything I post is considered a final draft, it's posted to gather opinions on what should be added, changed, or just plain trashed. I am ok if you are brutal!

So there are my views on chapter length, in your own writing, feel free to make things as long or short as they need to be to make you happy. Chapters have a way of ending themselves, usually on some cliffhanger or change in time and/or place.

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