Chapters and Scenes (how big is a…)

ChapterAs part of my exploration of size (see Size Matters) it occurs to me I need to talk about chapters and scenes. Now we all know what these are, don’t we;-) Assuming we do (and a short discussion follows) people have problems with them. Wandering around I see lots of ‘how big is a…’ posts from newer writers; I thought I’d add my two-penneth.


Let’s all agree that a chapter consists of one or more scenes. My view is chapters fall out of the wash, either from the outline (if you work that way) or from grouping scenes (if you work that way). How long is a chapter? As long as it needs to be. Chapters are generally (and I exclude experimental structures) very well defined and key action points will happen at the end of a chapter. It all keeps the reader’s interest!

Scenes are what writing should all be about; I will post separately about what is a scene?  How long is a scene, the answer is similar though to some extent is driven by personal style. When I do a first draft I set a scene target of 1,500 words. If I hit 1,250 words I am happy, if I go over 2,000 words I wonder if I have become carried away. All to be considered on a revised draft. If I only hit 500 words I suspect I don’t have enough going on though sometimes what looks like a scene is a prose bridge between two sections. I often have scenes at the 750 words level and it’s all part of the pacing. The odd short scene helps give stories a change of urgency and is not to be avoided. You may also have a part-scene leading into a flashback, or post-flashback.

What do you do for scene length? Do you have targets or just let the writing happen? Let me know!


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