The Long and Short of Things

This blog will help creative writers and grant writers. It is about the length of a chapter, whether in a story or a grant.

Editors talk about varying the size of sentences and paragraphs to maintain tempo or pacing. Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase the pace while longer ones slow things down. The opposite is true for chapters.

For creative writers, long chapters allow a reader to settle into the story through dialogue, action scenes, and/or narrative explanations. Short chapters focus on a single event and give the reader time to absorb the experience of the long chapter. As an example, a writer can use a long chapter for the climax where a lot of things happen to wrap up the story (quick pace). This is followed by a short chapter to wrap up the climax (slow things down).

For grant writers, the section describing the project generally allows the most number of words. This section is best divided into segments with headers, similar to chapters. Long segments provide important information for the reader to digest. Short segments allow the reader to take a break and hopefully understand the information in the longer segment better.

Varying the size or length of chapters and segments helps the reader capture the writer’s thoughts and provides a more readable experience.

So, how to do this? Of course, there is no formula or template. One way I would suggest is to think of a long chapter or segment as studying for a test. At some point, the student takes a break and sips on coffee or does some simple distraction to momentarily stop studying. This is the short of it.

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