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Chapter length for YA fiction?

(11 Posts)
1plus3plus1 Thu 02-Mar-17 22:11:11

Hello all, newbie here.

I've just started writing, this is all pretty new to me. I'm using Word, opening a new document per chapter, but I'm struggling to get an idea of how many pages of text my chapters would translate to in a book format.

Has anybody got any guidelines for how many words per chapter for YA fiction?


GetAHaircutCarl Fri 03-Mar-17 08:35:37

I doubt that there is a standard length TBH.

I suspect short is good. Looking at The 100 ( which I have on my desk) they are 8-10 pages each. But large font. I'd estimate 200 - 250 words per page.

iklboo Fri 03-Mar-17 08:44:44

DS is 11 but reads some YA. He prefers a normal font size rather than a larger one. About 8-10 pages sounds about right for a chapter.

GetAHaircutCarl Fri 03-Mar-17 08:49:14

I think getting the break point right is probably more important than the length.

A chapter should end, not necessarily on a cliffhanger but at an I-must-read-on point.

Witchend Fri 03-Mar-17 09:19:51

I'm doing middle grade and my chapter lengths are between 2000-3000.
I did look at a few similar books and do some calculations (blush-mathematician in me coming out) but actually when I was writing the chapters seem to naturally end at around that point.

I think, for example, I found the Alex Rider chapters were between 1700 and 3200 by rough estimation. Famous Five were less (1000-2200), and another author (can't remember-might have been Joan Aiken) tended to have huge chapters (5000+) but each chapter was split into sections by a line break.
They all feel natural for the book.

Although I picked up one of dh's books the other day-think it was Andy McNab, but it's that type anyway and his chapters often weren't even 2 pages long, so I guess if the book is interesting enough it doesn't matter.

1plus3plus1 Fri 03-Mar-17 11:18:01

Thanks very much, I think I'll write what feels natural for the story, and then reassess at the end!

I think it will help keep the narrative clearer in my head anyway, even if I end up putting some shorter chapters together.

Thanks again.

schmalex Fri 03-Mar-17 12:53:16

I wouldn't worry too much as long as they're not overly long - split it where it feels right. I would say 1500-2000 is typical in modern books, much longer and it's hard to get through it in one sitting. I once heard that 1500 is ideal for middle grade as it takes a 9 or 10yo about 30 mins to read and that is what they tend to have at bedtime. I find very long chapters a pain as I like to get to a chapter end before stopping.

leonardthelemming Sat 11-Mar-17 16:46:16

Has anybody got any guidelines for how many words per chapter for YA fiction?

I once heard that 1500 is ideal for middle grade as it takes a 9 or 10yo about 30 mins to read and that is what they tend to have at bedtime.

I have to confess my ignorance here as I don't actually know what middle grade is, but I think it's worth clarifying what YA is.

I suspect (please feel free to correct me) that middle grade is aimed at 9 to 13-year-olds, as in American Middle/Junior High School.

YA, as far as I can tell, is regarded by most publishers as suitable for readers aged 14+ and where the characters are in their mid to late teens. YA fiction often addresses issues which interest teenagers and may even affect some of them in real life, e.g.

Self-harm, including eating disorders; violence, including bullying; drug and alcohol abuse; sex, including teenage pregnancy.

Personally, I would not regard these topics as suitable for pre-pubescent children. Indeed, many school librarians have separate selections of books for UK Years 7 to 9 and Years 10 upward, and will not allow younger pupils to borrow books from the older selection.

As for chapter length, I can't help but feel that 1500 words is a bit short for YA. I've read a lot of YA in the last few years and chapters generally feel longer than that. In my own most recent book, the shortest chapter - not counting the Prologue and Epilogue - is just over 2000 words and the longest about 5500. The whole book totals about 95000 words. Notice also that I'm counting words rather than pages.

A chapter should end, not necessarily on a cliffhanger but at an I-must-read-on point.

This I totally agree with. If you will permit an example from my own recent book, Chapter 13 ends like this:

Suddenly I am sobbing uncontrollably; eyes red and puffy, snot running out of my nose and smearing what is left of my make-up all over my face. I am a complete mess—totally out of it. I feel Mum putting her arms around me, then catch a glimpse of a syringe as a nurse sticks it in my IV line. Almost immediately I start to doze off again. As I drift in and out of my drug-induced sleep I vaguely hear the words Suicide Watch and every time I open my eyes there is a nurse watching me. They think I’m going to try and kill myself.

Yeah, well, given half a chance, I am.

I hope that meets the criteria - you may judge for yourself. But before moving on, notice that this is written in the first person - very common for a YA book. Indeed, it seems to be becoming the norm. Slightly less common is that it is in the present tense.

But what happens next? Perhaps surprisingly, Chapter 14 does not follow on directly, but is told from the point of view of a different character - and in first person, past tense. (I used that as a device to make the characters more easily identifiable.)

Matron insisted I stay in bed all Monday morning. She let me get up after lunch but said I shouldn’t go to school. That makes two Mondays I’ve missed this term. I am going to have some serious catching up to do. But I was grateful to Matron really—no way did I feel up to doing anything except try to come to terms with what had happened.

Out of context, that doesn't make a lot of sense. What is actually happening is that there are two alternating scenarios - a very common technique in film scripts - and Chapter 14 follows on directly from Chapter 12. And in Chapter 12, the girl who is narrating witnessed a violent crime and subsequently had to make a statement to the police, so small wonder she is not feeling quite herself.

Yet the chapters are linked. For one thing the two characters know each other - they are friends, in fact. They are sixth-form students (note my earlier comment about the characters ages) and there is another character who appears in both Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 and who links the two almost-simultaneous scenarios together.

Whew! I seem to have written quite a lot. I hope this helps. Feel free to come back and ask for more specific details.

schmalex Sun 12-Mar-17 18:25:33

I wasn't suggesting middle grade and YA were one and the same, I was merely pointing out my frame of reference. Middle grade is a fairly standard term these days that does indeed refer to fiction for 9-12s (or thereabouts), so the category younger than YA with accordingly different content.
I think the principle of having a chapter that your reader can read in one go still stands, whatever the age.

leonardthelemming Sun 19-Mar-17 15:04:22

Long gap. Not keeping up!

I wasn't suggesting middle grade and YA were one and the same.

I wasn't suggesting that you were. And thanks for clarifying what Middle Grade is - I've learned something new! Not that I have any intention of writing for that age range as my experience with under-14s is very limited. On the other hand, I spent 35 years working with 14 to 18-year-olds, in both a professional and voluntary capacity, so on the basis of "write about what you know" I'll stick with YA.

And that's really my point, because the OP said YA and I wanted to clarify that it really was because so few people really do (or so it seems, on this board) and I was interested to find out more.

But the OP hasn't come back since Friday 3rd...

1plus3plus1 Sun 19-Mar-17 17:14:47

I'm still here!

Have been reading all the comments, thank you.

I'm not yet sure which ages mine will suitable for, guess I'll make an assessment once I've finished it - which is a long way off yet!

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