What Is It About Short Chapters?

I remember when I was writing Baby Grand people used to ask me all the time: Are your chapters short?

I thought it was such an odd question. I mean, of all the things to ask a writer about her work-in-progress…

I would answer, “Yes, for the most part.”

“Oh, good,” they’d say.

And then when Baby Grand was published this year, people told me how much they enjoyed the book, especially those short chapters. They said that they provided a natural place to stop reading or, perhaps more often, enticed them to read just a little bit more before going to bed.

Which is great. But I find this phenomenon so interesting. Don’t get me wrong: I think short chapters are terrific, as long as they’re tightly written and meaty. I guess with so many things vying for our attention these days, being able to read something in tidy digestible chunks is helpful. Totally.

Still, I often stop in the middle of a chapter when I read. I have no problem putting down a book at any point in the reading process, rather than only at chapter breaks. Am I weird?

How about you? Are you a strictly end-of-chapter bookmarker? Or does anything go?

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3 thoughts on “What Is It About Short Chapters?

  1. This is an interesting post. i have recently gone back to reread some of my “older” books and it seems chapters run about 20 pages in length with 20-30 chapters in a book. Most of the newer books I’ve read have much shorter chapters, 8-12 pages each, and 40-60 chapters. Like you I can put down a story pretty much anytime. But, it is nice to finish a chapter before stopping and the shorter chapters help with that.

  2. I’ve had people ask me this question, too — one went as far as to say she gets bored with longer chapters! I kind of like it when chapters are varied in length, but I don’t really care one way or the other as long as it makes sense with the story.

  3. Maybe I’m conditioned to think this way, but I like short chapters. When I finally got around to reading The Godfather recently, I couldn’t believe that some of the chapters were 50 pages long.

    As a writer, I feel like I am bombarded with “Don’t do this!” and “Don’t do that!” advice. I’ve come to feel like readers will be bored if things don’t keep barreling along. Hence, short chapters.

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