1. Study Other Authors in Your GenrePick up a few books you love from the genre you’re writing in and re-read them. You don’t need to read deeply, skimming is fine. Take notes for how many pages the chapters are, and how many story beats happen in each (see #3 for more on story beats). Be sure to look at a variety of authors to get a good feel for the genre. You might think that longer books will naturally have longer chapters, but often the opposite is true. To make a long story easier to comprehend, the author may choose to break up chapters more frequently. Think of it like the old adage of eating an elephant – one bite at a time is easier if the bites are smaller. Another popular trick for long books is to split them up into “Parts” which contain multiple chapters. This can help your reader mentally divide the book as well.
2. Watch Your Word Count
3. Measure Your Story BeatsThis method is easier to use if you plan out your book ahead of time, rather than writing as you go. When planning out your book, you generally split the plot into moments. Let’s use Snow White as an example. The beats for the beginning of the story might look like this:
- Explanation of setting
- Evil Queen asks Mirror “Who is the fairest?”
- Evil Queen orders Huntsman to kill Snow White
- Huntsman lets Snow White go – she escapes into the forest
- Snow White discovers a cottage
- Seven Dwarves come home
- Evil Queen discovers Snow White is still alive
Bonus: Mix & MatchIf you’re “pantsing” your book (that is, writing it as the ideas come to you without prior planning) then you may want to combine keeping track of your word count and measuring your story beats. Aim for a word count when writing, then review your work to check how many story beats happened. Cut material or split your chapters up as necessary. If you’re the kind of writer who likes to crank out a first draft in one go and then revise, you can wait until revision to do this. Often it can be easier to cut unnecessary material and split chapters when needed when you have a better idea of the big picture of the book.
As an Author Success Consultant, my goal is to help you make your book as successful as possible! I’d love to have the chance to chat about your book and help you out.