What is the Ideal Chapter Length?

122016-chapter1Have you ever thought about how long a chapter in your non-fiction book should be? I mean really thought about it?

Most people do think about how long the overall book will be (thinking in word count not pages!) but few think about how long a chapter should be.

And while you CAN use a blog post as the basis of a chapter, there are some different guidelines!

1. Chapters don’t all have to be the same length!

Sure, in a “perfect” world, every chapter would be exactly 2.5 pages long. The book would have a beautiful symmetry and every word would be powerful.

And welcome to the REAL world!

Some chapters will be longer because you have more to share about that topic. Some chapters will be shorter because you can be succinct and clear in fewer words.

Get over it.

A chapter should be exactly as long as it needs to be to get your point across clearly – and no longer! Trying to force your chapters to conform to a certain length is a recipe for disaster – you’ll feel shoehorned into an arbitrary length AND your readers will feel the struggle to conform to that size restriction. Your flow will suffer.

2. {DON’T} Just make a blog post into a chapter

Don’t get me wrong, a blog post is the great FOUNDATION for a chapter but it seldom can become a chapter in and of itself. Here’s why:

  • A blog post has its own introduction, ending, and Call to Action. It’s a discreet piece of writing which means it rarely lends itself to transitioning into and out of other chapters!
  • Most posts are 300-600 words – typically too brief for a chapter.
  • Many blog posts give a light overview of a topic – whereas a book chapter would go much deeper into the subject matter.

And some single blog posts have enough message, meaning, details, and knowledge behind each one to BE a book all on its own!

3. Your chapters need to flow into each other

A book is made of chapters just like a sentence is made of words. They’re designed to work TOGETHER to create a whole – which means that one chapter should logically flow into the next one.

Of course you can mention a topic and say “For more details on widgets, see chapter 7” – that’s fine. But chapters are designed to work together to create an overall picture in the mind of your reader.

As you’re sitting down to outline YOUR next book project, think about how your chapters will flow into each other and also support each other to create a single, cohesive book.

For additional resources, check out the Book Idea Workbook – it’s created to help you go from idea to outline!

Kim Galloway
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