Middle grade books have a loosely set range of word counts from cropped-photo1.jpg30,000 to 50,000 words. Established authors and fantasy books can push the total to over 60,000.

Chapter lengths also vary widely in every genre. With the books I’ve read this year, chapter lengths have fallen in the 800-2,600-word count. I prefer the lower end for these reasons:

  1. If you want your story read out loud in a classroom, shorter is better. Teachers have five, maybe ten minutes of read-aloud space in their busy day. It’s nice to have a chapter’s beginning, middle, and end completed during one reading session.
  2. Reluctant readers rejoice at shorter chapters. They are more apt to read if the end is in sight. I’ve watched as they clutch the remaining pages of a chapter wishing the words would go by quicker.
  3. For writers it forces them to be succinct with their words and move the story forward in just a few pages. The end of a chapter also brings renewed emphasis to propel the reader to keep reading.
  4. For me it’s also nice to turn in at night by reading one or two short chapters rather than slide the bookmark in midway through a lengthy scene.

Well, there’s my vote for short chapters. How about you? Long or short?

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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  1. allenbookclub says:

    Agree. Chapters that stretch over too many scenes aare hard to summarize. It’s much easier for me when pleasure reading or reading aloud to quickly review the previous short chapter to refresh students’ memories and then be able to read them the next chapter. When writing the manuscript for a middle grade I aim for ten pages give or take a few.

  2. Great post. Totally agree.

  3. Betsy D. says:

    As a teacher in middle school and an avid reader of adult novels I say hurray for short chapters.

  4. It’s certainly something to think about. I tend to write long chapters, so maybe I need to start slashing. Thanks for the post.

  5. diegosdragon says:

    Short for sure! I saw it in one of Patterson’s books, and I do it with mine. I like a mix of longish and short. With a battle scene I like to give readers a bit more. When characters are facing a decision I love short chapters.

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