I can’t remember where I read it now, but it must have been in some forum, where the question was posed, ‘how long should a chapter be’; as you might imagine there was a range of answers which covered every length from very short to as long as you like and to no chapters at all.
As I work through my very long novel which I am editing fiercely, I am dividing it up into sections; however there are so many story lines, so many parallel plots going on, weaving in and out of each other, that I’m finding it a much more tricky exercise than I have done with previous novels. I suppose it reflects the way I write; some authors have a plan… some have it down to the last action and description, I just write. My stories bubble up from somewhere or another, fed by lots of different ideas from lots of different inspirations and they flow along, branch out, flood, dry up, spring up again, wander off into the wilderness, spread out unmanageably… When I’ve finished my first writing, then I go back and try and bring some order to what I’ve written, and deviating from my river analogy and going onto a gardening analogy trim it and train it and give it some shape and order.
My story starts off with Christmas at grandma’s, grandma being nearly a hundred year old Mrs Portbraddon, and her house being a large family house up on the moors. All the family arrive, and then the snow comes down, and the first part of the novel deals with the events which happen over the holiday period. It is contained and manageable. When the family leave, the different stories of th different adult grandchildren begin to diverge, and this is when it becomes more tricky to organize.
I suppose it comes down to why the chapters are there – as a consideration to the reader. There has to be flow, and although the ‘cliff-hanger ending’ is a factor to keep the reader reading, that can be artificial in some stories if the writer is continually trying to contrive an exciting finish of a part of the story. However, the end of the chapter does have to be natural, it shouldn’t just be broken off as if in mid-thought which would just leave the reader puzzled.
There are some interesting thoughts and points here:
Meanwhile I shall go back to the river or garden, and plod on, bearing in mind that I don’t want my readers to plod!
If you haven’t read my previous novels, here is a link: