How many words should be in a chapter?
I have read many books, but did not pay attention to how many words or even pages were in a chapter. I simply turned the pages and could not wait to discover who did what and why. When I got to the last chapter I was either shocked, relieved or wanting more.
I researched at length just how to format a chapter . I think I got a firm grasp on what goes into a chapter.
If one of my characters receives the phone call she desperately waited for about the location of her son, she will rush out the door. If my character rushed out of the house forgetting to turn the stove burners off and jumps in her car. The chapter should reveal where she drove off to or leave you needing to turn to the next chapter to discover if the information was credible. The chapter should also reveal the consequences of leaving the burner on, or perhaps it should keep you guessing for a few more chapters.
I researched even further how many words a chapter should have. I discovered that a chapter could have as little as a paragraph, a sentence and to my surprise it could just have one word! Yea, ONE word. Well any writer that can draw in a reader with just one word is my idol! Speaking of just one word, have you heard about the best-selling book currently on AMAZON ? The pages are BLANK! Ummmm…yea that’s my new idol. I think I idolize it because that “writer” is on the best sellers list. However I could never deliver blank pages. My characters are so busy plotting and twisting their way through chapter after chapter, they’re too strong to be silenced. So I’ll have to live with not making AMAZON’s best sellers list! ( although I desperately want to be on someones best sellers list!!)
My youngest character still does not understand what is going on. He is having trouble knowing his own truth. He is conflicted in his head who is telling him the truth, having great trouble realizing who really loves him. My oldest character has yet to hear that his final case that allowed him to take his neglected wife on a month-long Hawaiian vacation is about to lure him back in. They have no care how long the chapters are, all they know is they are moving forward. When one or two of them are left out of a chapter they use that time to plot just how far they will twist and turn. My characters like the time and love when I fill the chapters with their abilities, therefore I could never just give them one paragraph, one sentence and certainly not one word. What they will not reveal to me is how many words or how many pages their chapter needs!
While each of my characters are busy I research further on an answer. I think half my library is filled with chapter research books. I devour each book and just when I think I have the answer the next chapter tells me other wise. I begin to feel like a failure, like I am not a writer after all, like maybe that “writer” of the blank pages has the right idea! As I begin to empty my coffee into the sink my youngest character decides that he knows the truth. He decides his short years within the chapters have all been a lie. He begins to believe that he was never loved by the people who he thought were his parents, he begins to believe they used him as some kind of sick revenge. He started to develop familiar feeling for the people who took him.
My youngest character has forced me to put away the research books and write his revelation in the next chapter but he has not told me when to stop or how to stop he just needs me to keep going until he is out of breath. At the same time my oldest character is hearing what transpired while he was on vacation, so now he needs to jump into action. But he can’t jump in on my youngest’s chapter so he has to wait, he needs to cool his heals until the youngest is out of breath. Yet neither, not the youngest or the oldest has told me how many words they need!
Through all the research and character interruption, I have learned word count does not matter. Nor does it matter how many pages it takes my characters to move forward. It only matters that my characters move forward and that by the last chapter they ought to have shocked me, left me relieved or begging me to write their sequel!
Of course all that I have learned, and what my characters need has to bearing on what the editors will do to us !!!!