Ok I'm new at this and I want to know how I know when I have a chapter?
There is no rule on that at all. Some of the new novels have very short chapters of only 4 or 5 pages, but I use enough pages that a 100,000-word novel has only about 30 chapters, much more than 3 pages per chapter. In short, there is no rule on chapter length at all. Also, you don't have to have them all the same length, but I try to keep them somewhat the same. If you don't know this basic fact, what else don't you know? Maybe you should wait before publishing. I'm just trying to help. There are many good books on writing fiction, and most new writers read and study just about all of them.
About the only reason to have really short chapters is if you want the reader to feel they're reading faster than they are and give the story a fast-paced feel. Of course, if the story drags, that will not work. Also, a short story would have shorter chapters than a novel with 80,000 to 100,000 words. Again, there are no "rules" on chapter length.
There is no rule for this. A chapter should be as long as it takes. No more, no less. My book, Crystal Shade is 148k long and has only nine chapters (Yep, you read it, right. Nine.). And no one ever had any problem with it, but some of my readers actually read this book from the beginning to the end in one day (Yep, readers are THAT crazy! That's why we love them. ). And the second volume of Crystal Shade is around 186k, also has nine chapters (One of them is a ~60k long battle chapter.).
You're the writer, you set the rules, no one else. If you want to tell a chapter in 2k, tell it in 2k. If you want to tell something in 60k, tell it in 60k. Period.
Thanks for the reply. There is a lot that i dont know about in this field. If you can provide a title or two that i can read to learn the basics it would be greatly appreciated. In the meantime i will keep writing.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein is an easy one to start with. Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is full of good info. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman is okay, but not as good as the other two. Stephen King has one about writing that's good. I think it's called On Writing. I loaned my copy and never saw it again. I have an old book by Robert Smith, Writing Fiction, Techniques of the Craft. You will find a lot more suggestions in the books listed, also. And, yes, keep writing AND reading. Those two things are how you learn. Also, keep asking questions.
Just as punctuation indicates both the completeness of a though and relationships within a thought, so sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters and sometimes parts also indicates the completeness, and sometimes the relationship, of ideas.
The question back would be how many words are required to complete a thought or an idea?
To expand on this just a little more: the logic of an argument, how it is presented, its soundness and cogency . . . things we think are more in the domain of non-fiction, essays,debate, etc. . . . also exist in story telling. They are not as obvious, but just as important.
Thus, a chapter is as long as necessary to express its idea . . . and a book is as long as it needs to be to tell the story: in both cases, no more and no less.
It kind of scares me when I see questions like this. It brings up two questions: Has the person read more than a handful of books? (If so, he or she should be cognizant of the various chapter lengths.) The other: Are you a slave to numbers or the story? A writer should be a slave to the story, not page or word counts.
The answer is: A chapter should be as long as it needs to be to serve the story.
Well Doug, ive spent the last 36 yrs of my life in the auto industry and I've read plenty of chapters on GM, HYUNDAI, SUBARU, ISUZU, SUZUKI, HUMMER, even FORD manuals. I've read RR Martin, Tolkien, Dekker, Clancy, and the BIBLE. For some reason I've never really looked at the length of the paragraph or chapter. You sound pompous sir, maybe I'll pull out all of the books in my house and count every page and chapter so you wont have to be afraid to answer questions like this.
In the mean time...I will keep writing
In essense, yes. Look at a haiku . . . in 3 very short lines, a lot of thought is expressed.
Separate lines of dialogue are separate paragraphs . . . because each speaker represents a different idea.
To over simplify, a sound argument gives "all" the reasons for one side (I am right because of A, B, C . . . logically/reasonably presented), and cogent argument often expresses the answers to what should be the opponents arguements. (if he says X, Y, Z I would counter with . . . ) Each idea (A, B, C . . . X, Y, Z . . . ) would be its own paragraph, or section, or chapter, whatever unit is necessary to express it in full.
Breaking up a solid 1 paragraph story into smaller units is a help to the reader. Who is speaking, what is the narrator saying, a shift in point of view, time, scene, etc.
Writing is funny. We need to give detail, yet too much detail is deadly. We need to be concise, precise, and clear, and yet we savor complexity and ambiguity.
Next time you are reading anything, ask yourself why the author created paragraphs/sections/chapters he did. I think you'll find that once you see it and feel it, then get out of your own way (stop over analyzing) it's not so hard.