Well, another topic that interested me turned up.  So, here we go.

Chapters.  How long should they be?

Oh my, oh honey, no.  That would be one of those silly “writing rules” that are such a terrible travesty of the creative process.  Forget should.

Now, that said, I’m going to tell you how long a chapter should be:  as long as it needs to be.

I say that a lot, don’t I?  Should a character be gay?  If they’re gay, yes.  Should I write in English or French?  Which do you prefer?

The only rule of writing is:

a) write
b) use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so forth except when you need not to.  Never ignore them out of laziness or ignorance.
c) openly, deliberately, and consciously violate the laws of reality.  Doing so out of ignorance won’t do.  That’s not to say you should become a master locksmith to make up a lock for your burglar series, but rather that you should realise you know nothing of locks and thus deliberately make it up.  Know thyself whenst thou writeth.

What does this have to do with how long to make a chapter?  That’s the point.  How long a chapter is is only as relevant as it needs to be, as with most aspects of writing.

Really, just ask the lovely gentlemen of Oxford:


  • 1a main division of a book, typically with a number or title:we will deal with this in chapter eleven
  •  an Act of Parliament numbered as part of a session’s proceedings.
  •  a section of a treaty:a majority voted for the inclusion of the social chapter in the treaty
  • 2a distinctive period in history or in a person’s life:the people are about to begin a new chapter in their history
  •  a series or sequence:the latest episode in a chapter of problems
  • 3the governing body of a religious community or knightly order:land granted by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral

See?  No defined length.  

There’s nothing even dictating one must have chapters.  Look at the fantastic Sir Terry Pratchett.  True, his YA Discworld books have chapters, but that’s at the behest of his YA publisher.  He’d not have them otherwise and has said so.

Oh, but Jaye, you’re one to talk your own chapters are absurdly long!  Well, okay, yes they are.  I have my methods.  I seriously considered not using chapters, but I decided that they made the story more manageable for both writing and reading if it had chapters and I agonised, at times, over where to break them.  I hope that, by and large, I’ve done well on that point.

Still, as with any aspect of storytelling, the length of a chapter should be natural.  Don’t put parameters of word count or page count to it or you’ll find yourself breaking your parameters often in order not to break in awkward places — or, worse, following them too rigidly indeed and breaking in those terribly awkward places.  A chapter break goes where a chapter break goes to you — where you feel is a good place to close this, oh look a cliché (actually an idiom, but too many authors and readers alike are fuzzy on the distinction), chapter of the plot (expression seem familiar?  “This chapter of my life” help?).  When in doubt, ask yourself where, in a movie, there would be a nice dissolve, or in TV where a commercial break would fit comfortably and you’ll be on a fair track.

Homecoming by Seanan McGuire

English: Author and musician Seanan Mcguire at...

English: Author and musician Seanan Mcguire at Dezenovecon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A very awesome short story by the lovely and talented Ms McGuire.

The locker room is always tense before a game. Alisa is trying to get her uniform to stay in place, counting more on safety pins and prayer than she probably should, and Birdie–true to her name–keeps whistling, which is probably going to get her slapped if she doesn’t stop soon. Cram twenty girls from opposing squads into one small space and tensions are going to flare.

continued here: Homecoming.

Rest in peace, sweet little pup

Ben | Rocket Dog Rescue

Ben | Rocket Dog Rescue

The image beside is not the sweet little pup in question.  I don’t believe I actually have any pictures of him.  This image is Ben, possibly a distant cousin, who bears a strong enough resemblance to be a stand-in.

The sweet little thing was not my own dog, but rather my neighbour’s.  He died last night.  Mostly of neglect, but specifically of some unknown illness.

He was a darling, sweet, bright, affectionate, playful little thing always.  No matter how they yelled at him, or anything they did he just wanted to play.

He was rarely brought enough to eat or drink except what myself and another neighbour gave him out of pity.  Still he only ever wanted to play and have his muzzle & ears scratched and his head petted.  Love and play were about the only words in his whole soul.

Unfortunately we all assumed he was better off in bad care than in the local shelter.  We live in a county with one of the highest kill rates in the entire country (for my foreign readers, there are things barbarisms, such as the US, wherein animal shelters will simply euthanise an animal because (s)he has been there for a week).  And animal rescue is, technically, illegal in Georgia.

Yes, you read that right.  Wildlife rescue not so much.  Strays?  Legally you’re required to take them to the aforementioned shelter or, by preference, call animal control to do it; though this one isn’t much enforced.  And finally pets — you cannot rescue them.  It carries a heavy fine and a prison sentence even if the animal is indisputably being abused!  There was a big case about that when someone tried to rescue an animal being mistreated by a neighbour; you may only call animal control, the officers of which, due to the high kill rate, will frequently just give warnings over and over again rather than take the animal (and others on power trips who will take the animal on the smallest provocation, ah the US government at work)

No he was not beaten … well, not often that we know of — she’d have actually had to get close enough to touch the dog for that, something she was clearly loathe to do and vehemently discouraged the children living in the home to do.  Yes, she got a dog and then kept it, when tiny, at arms’ length, then as a bigger puppy (knee high at the top of his head) at brooms’ length.  He wasn’t starved, exactly.  Regardless, he became quite sick.  This happens when you consider a dog spoilt who will not drink that has, in her own words, got “nasty”, and fed nothing but bread and old milk for days at a time.

Yes, she expected the dog to drink unclean water.  She wouldn’t water him if it’d been raining — assuming he could just drink the rain water (frankly, a likely healthier choice than the local tap water … and her was rather eager to lap the stuff out of his fur, and the puddles) and fed him things that held no significant nutrition for a human, let alone a carnivore.

What was it?  Worms maybe, though if so not one of the kinds that leaves the dog bloated; he was skin and bones.  Maybe some stomach bug he caught from his poor conditions.  Maybe it was parvo.

He died, mostly, alone.  He became ill a bit over three days ago — I heard him throwing up one night while I was out playing with my own sweet little pup.  I didn’t see him again for two days after.  Silly me, I assumed he was inside or at a vet or something.  Sorry, sometimes I have delusions.  No, he’d just curled up in his dog house and not moved for two days.  In that time there hadn’t been a single sign of water or food — enhancing the illusion he wasn’t outside those days.

Yesterday afternoon I was informed that today “the dog people” would be coming to get him because he’s sick and she can’t afford to get him treated.  No sadness, she didn’t even look at the dog who — despite being skin and bone, and too exhausted to flick his ear to dislodge a swarm of flies that’d landed there — had stood up to greet her with all the excitement his little body could manage … which was pretty much the standing and looking expectant.  His heart broke when she just went back inside.  So did mine.

Last night he laid down beside our shared fence near a spot where he and my pup would often play and died looking toward our yard.  His person out front oblivious.  Sadly in the dark he’d been invisible until my little pup noticed something wrong.  The little nose that can smell that it’s Thursday, thirty-three minutes past eight AM, and the Prime Minister of England had poached eggs and toast with marmalade today I guess … well, he suddenly became frantic about getting to his buddy and then hesitant to go near.

Now I regret never having called animal control on her.  If I had well, that little puppy very likely still wouldn’t be alive today, but at the same time … he’d have died more quickly and humanely (for all it’s faults, at least this shelter doesn’t do gas chambers or other such horrific Auschwitz-esque things).  I can’t honestly believe that his person will miss him, but he will be missed; by myself and some of his neighbours.

It’s at times like these when I pray that there are such things as Karma, Hell, Tartarus, or Nifelheim.  Simply because one has to believe that some justice will be served because the legal system certainly won’t be lifting a finger to serve it.

I’m going to set aside the portion of what I earn from Love or Lust sales today and tomorrow and donate them to the ASPCA.

Might I recommend, those of you who already have bought the book or don’t plan to (or simply can’t today or tomorrow), consider dropping over there and making a donation, or if not to them, perhaps to your local animal rescue charity.