Monday, November 1, 2010

Short Chapters and a Fast Read

It's hard to believe that today is November 1.  I have been at this task of author marketing for three months and almost two seasons.  As a first-time author what have I learned from my readers?  So much.

Probably the most interesting and valuable lesson, though, centers around a comment I consistently hear.  Again in a Heartbeat, my readers say, is a "fast read." While the book is only 168 pages, the psychological aspect of short chapters cannot be underestimated. 

I remember hearing Dan Brown talk about his preference for short chapters. Brown felt that if a chapter ended on a note of interest or intrigue, it kept readers turning the page. But the point was to keep it short.

When I started the final draft of my book, I  kept chapters under five pages. I felt this kept the story moving. Reader feedback has confirmed what I sensed.  The "fast read" comment has been the highest compliment. They started my book AND finished it.

Points to consider:
  • Books with short chapters are ideal for reading in short breaks.
  • Short, punchy chapters keep readers turning the page.
  • Short chapters help the writer set up stories within the larger narrative.
  • Chapters longer than 5 pages can leave the reader wading through a sea of text.
  • Short chapters help the writer develop a unique style.

In this world of 24/7 news cycles, many people are also gravitating toward shorter books.  As one of my readers told me, "I have a mound of books this high that I want to read but haven't gotten to."  And - yet - she read my memoir.  Maybe it was the smaller book that drew her attention.  I can get through this, she thought.

This is not to put down longer books.  One of my favorites is Gone With the Wind.  Of course, I read that when I was 13 years old, in the days before computers and cable television's 800 channels. Now I am hesitant to pick up a big book. There is so much I want to read . . . only so many hours to commit to one story.   Only so much time.

No comments: