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Thread: Word Count

  1. #1
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    Word Count

    This may seem like an odd question, but I am hoping that someone out there has the answer (or AN answer)...

    What is the word count in a typical chapter of an epic fantasy? I am currently writing a novel which will approach in length the works of authors like George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan. Instead of counting how many words they include in their chapters, does anyone know what the average is? I have a feel for where moments end and the rise and fall of the action, but when I submit, I don't want the chapters to be too long/short for my format? Ideas.

  2. #2
    Ancient Member Bardos's Avatar
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    Well, 350 words is one page. If a chapter is 10 pages, then it's 3500 words. But not all people have 10 pages per chapter. E.g., Erikson's chapters are much, much bigger, and Glen Cook's smaller... So, it's what *you* want, in the bottom line.

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    5,000 words is a typical "average."

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    Space Cowboy Asraloth's Avatar
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    i actually found a method that the publishers typically use to calculate word length. keep in mind, this is for the entire novel, but i suppose you can apply it to chapters:

    "Count the number of characters in an average, mid-paragraph line (BTW, this all assumes a monospaced font. If you're using a proportional font, the number of characters can vary immensely, throwing off the numbers and word count). Divide by six. This is the number of words per line. Count the number of lines on a page. (This includes any # for blank lines.) Multiply #2 by #3 to get the number of words per page. Multiply by the number of full pages (plus any fractional pages), to get the total number of words. Round the number to the nearest hundred. Authors tend to round up; editors round down. This is the number you put on the front page of the manuscript."

    that's what editors use, and it is a very different number to what your word-processor says.

  5. #5
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    It's something that has been exercising me with my novel. It's shortish for a fantasy novel (around 130,000 words) and last I looked had 23 chapters.

    I've gone for a seat of my pants approach, and chapters vary between 10 and 30 ms pages. My editor seems to think this is ok. But the main thing which drives the breaking of chapters is the action in the novel, trying to make each chapter an identifiable part of the story.

    Alison

  6. #6
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    Thanks all! I actually have gone back into the manuscript, and where I had intended to place chapter breaks coincided with the word counts mentioned. The length of the chapters feels about right...for a novel which will end up being about 800 pages!

  7. #7
    Keeping The Equilibrium Erebus's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that just breaking a manuscript up into the perceived, acceptable amount of pages is the correct way to construct a chapter. For me, a chapter must have some essential qualitiies. First and foremost it needs direction - taking the reader from one place in the story to another. A chapter without this, or one which doesn't reveal any more plot or storyline will leave your reader bored and wanting to skip, IMO.

    I also try to make my chapters mini cliffhangers, leaving the reading wanting, so that they will want to read on and keep those pages turning.

    In short a chapter must be just that: a subdivision of the whole narrative, as long or as short as necessary to achieve what I have outlined above. Construct them all as their own little story, with a beginning, middle and end, and I believe the result will be very powerful and, more importantly, very readable sections of your tale!

    [This message has been edited by erebus (edited December 14, 2001).]

  8. #8
    Ancient Member Bardos's Avatar
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    Erebus, I agree about chapter.
    I personaly try to make each one a short story, with a cliffhanger in the end, if possible, or a "question" (e.g., where will he go now?) that'll make the reader continue. I usually don't like chapters with no meaning and 5 or 6 scenes in one (but that of course doesn't meant they are wrong way to write, or anything).

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    Erebus and Bardos, your points are well made and true. I do not question the importnace or chapter structure, I merely wanted to know if anyone couild identify an average word count for a typical epic fantasy chapter. I used this as a point of comparison with my current work to see if my story falls into norms or not. I do not construct my writing to adhere to word count, I just wanted to see if my format was typical or not.

    Thanks for the advice and info folks...

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