February 15, 2024 Post

When I started this blog back in the late 50s, I never envisioned the great interaction I’ve enjoyed with you, the brave readers who dare to open these weekly missives. All I wanted to do when I started out was to send around one of my little stories and see what people thought about it. Although thousands of people email me imploring me to “save your tiny word-challenged stories,” I know they don’t mean it… right?

What’s been really cool of late, has been the way you guys generously weigh in when I pose questions that I really want to know the answers to. Last week was a perfect example. As I continue to push the boulder up the hill while writing Questionable Characters, my first novel, I’m constantly learning, and my current riddle focuses on chapter sizes. I asked for feedback regarding your preferences when it comes to novels and here’s a sample of what I received:

I like a variety of chapter lengths.

I like slightly longer chapters during the set-up. I don’t mind short chapters in the middle part of a book, but I find too many shifts towards the climax starts to bug me.

I’d break the 30+ page chapters into two, if there is a logical point of break.
If not, just keep them as is. Kind of analogous to using a semi-colon rather than a period.

As for chapter length, I prefer shorter ones mixed with some a little longer, but not 30 pages. Maybe 10 or 15. Those shorter, action-packed chapters keep me reading much longer and later than I should.

I believe chapter and sub-chapter breaks should coincide with the natural breaks in the story. The number of pages per chapter means nothing to me.

Personally not a fan of chapters as in the form of Patterson (seems very choppy). But 5-6 pages are fine if it makes sense in the story 🙂

Varying lengths of chapters in each book. Some writers have very short chapters and in my opinion, it seems a little choppy.

I am a fan of the shorter chapters for most novels. However, depending on the context of the scene you are describing, it may call for a somewhat longer chapter to fully develop the storyline…chapters of 10-20 pages with a few being “quick hits” of 5 or so pages. Occasionally there is a longer scene playing out.

I like shortish chapters as a rule, maybe up to 20, 25 pages. Varying the lengths within that range (shortest being maybe 5, 6 pages) based on chapter content can work well.

I’m liking the shorter ones (but not like the two-pagers).

A quick shout-out to all of the above contributors (Chuck, Henry, Guy, SX, Liz, Nancy, Mark, Susan, Mike, and anonymous) who took the time to share their thoughts, and reinforce my own inkling to lean into the shorter chapters and maybe find a way to break up the big chunks (while not being afraid to vary page lengths occasionally).

Regarding the novel, as I estimated last week, I did manage to finish the after-the-fact outline of draft #1. Now I have an easy-to-read document of what I’ve written. Yippee! Now I’m going to open up my Kindle, read the draft as if it were a real book and see how it feels before I move on to the next step. Stay tuned.

And now on to the S.O.W. (that’s how you cool kids refer to my Story of the Week). I guess the “T” is silent. Thanks to Edward H for the prompt.

The Evolution of Silence

As soon as he saw his first electric car, Bo knew he had to have one. He’d been sneaking around since he stole his first Halloween pumpkin off a porch, and he figured a silent EV would be perfect for all his crimes: stalking, graffiti tagging, porch pirating, and mugging.

Tonight, he silently rolled right up to his target, climbed out and was about to strike when the cops tackled him after using their own EV to surprise him.

“That was totally uncool,” Bo said.

“Apparently you haven’t heard,” the cop boasted gleefully. “We also have the right to remain silent.”

Prompt: Electric Vehicle

As always, thanks for listening! See ya again next week for more adventures in writing.

Scotty out

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