Some authors draft 100,000 word novels and insert chapter breaks during their final edit. Others, like me, think in terms of chapters as we write.
I used to aim for a regimented 5,000 words per chapter, but in this post-Angels and Demons-era, that is too simplistic.
Plot crafters can look at chapters as self-contained sections, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending, just like the overall story arc. Each chapter can have a sense of unity or completeness. There are exceptions, such as the cliffhanger chapter ending, where the action is not ending. Chapter hooks are great…especially if the reader can peek ahead, see that the next chapter is only 10 pages long, and decide to trade precious minutes of sleep for finding out what happens next.
Chapters should not end in the middle of a scene or intense action. I tried this in one of my correspondence course assignments, and was instructed in bold black marker that it’s a red flag for rejection. It’s also unkind to the reader.
One new idea is to have chapters take between ten to fifteen minutes to read. This is often how much time people have during commutes or lunch breaks.
Beyond reader convenience, short chapters definitely convey a sense of faster pace. Long chapters hint that lovely, languid descriptions of settings, gowns and tea service are to follow.
White (blank) space on a printed page is savvy. Short paragraphs fit the times. The same can be said for chapters. Until the pendulum swings, and the next mega-seller has fifty-page chapters.