I'd really like everyone to chime in on this. It seems like a small thing, but it's not. This is vital to writers and readers alike, and I'd like your opinion. After I give mine.
Many of my respected colleagues have a very strong opinion that chapters should NOT be short (by the way, I am talking specifically about books for middle grade and young adult here). Their reasoning is that coming to the end of a chapter gives a kid an excuse to quit reading, and therefore if the chapters are really short no kid will ever finish the book.
I think it's the opposite. If a kid gets to the end of a chapter, and KNOWS the next one is a doozy, long long long, there's no chance on Earth he or she is going to keep reading. However, if the kid knows the next chapter is SHORT, he or she will think to themselves, ooh, just one more, giddyup.
I've received hundreds of emails and letters from readers. Without one single exception, not one, I've had many say they love my short chapters. Of course, that's not a scientific study, because the kids who write me are those who like my books. I doubt someone would write just to say, your chapters are too short. But still. Not one? Ever?
I have matured in my chapter structure. They got a little too short in Jimmy Fincher. And some of the "cliff hanger" endings were a little contrived. I think I'm much better at creating solid chapter endings, but still making the reader want to read the next one. And the next one. And the next one.
I guess I should define short and long. My chapters are now between 1,500 and 2,500 words. That's between 6 and 10 pages in the final book, roughly. For example, my new book coming out has 51 chapters and it's just over 400 pages. Harry Potter has long chapters, 20 or more pages per chapter. (Yikes, if we based it just on that, I might as well concede now!) Longer chapters obviously worked very well for JK Rowling. But was it DESPITE the long chapters because the story was so good? Maybe.
Anyway, sound off. As soon as my book comes out and the blog grows, I WILL create a forum. But until then, we must debate in the comments. So, what do you think? Short or long? Let me know.
WRITING UPDATE: I'm now at 89,632 words on Book 2. The End is in sight, and it's bittersweet as always.
BOOK UPDATE: I got my copies of the audio for Book 1. They look awesome! (I already told you they sound awesome. Kudos again to Mark Wright.) The release date is now less than one month away. As my son would say, sweet biscuits.