Babisko

How long do you prefer chapters?

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I know with many authors, the chapter ends whenever the author believes it to be done, but my question is, what do readers prefer? Personally, I can't stand super short chapters, anything less than 1,000, really, because it feels rushed or that it hasn't gone anywhere. I generally write about 2,000 to 3,000 word stories, and recently got a review that, although saying they loved my story, the chapters were too short.

I know its personal preference for some people, but I also know that longer chapters can get overbearing. I've read some stories with chapters with up to 30,000 words, which I won't complain about, other than the fact that if I somehow manage to screw up when I'm scrolling down (which, surprisingly, happens a lot) I tend to lose my place.

Like, right now, I'm working on a new story, and the first chapter is shy of 3,000. With the way I write, it's usually not hard for me to keep it going to make it feel a little more filled out, but I also don't want to write to the extent of overbearing.

Anyway, back on topic, how long, as a reader, do you prefer your chapters?

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As a reader, I don't like super long chapters. Anything that makes my scrollbar look thinner than a sheet of notebook paper (yep, I've seen 'em), is too long, and I'm not going to read it.

Around 3000-5000 words is generally good, but it also depends on what you're writing about. Some subject don't lend themselves to superbly long chapters. While expounding on things can be good, sometimes more is just more.

And I don't think under 1000 words always indicates it being rushed. The DD&DT bi-weekly challenge here in the forums requires the submission to be less than 1000 words. It can actually be quite a challenge to write a comprehensive piece that fulfills the requirements without making it feel rushed or forced.

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WHAT!!!

As a reader, I don't like super long chapters. Anything that makes my scrollbar look thinner than a sheet of notebook paper (yep, I've seen 'em), is too long, and I'm not going to read it.

Hey I resemble that remark! the first chapter of my Transformers prime story had over 21,000 words in it >< chapter 2 was only about 5500 . But chapter 3 was another 20,000 and chapter 4 is already at 21,000 , and I think I can expect another 5000 before I'm finished with chapter.

I just like to give my readers some of development of the story line in each chapter.

Edited by Aysha c.c.

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Storyline development is fine, but something as long as my senior thesis isn't something I'm going to read unless it's in print. Babisko asked for opinions, I gave mine as a reader. Yours may differ.

We're talking about reading online - that's my opinion.

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Storyline development is fine, but something as long as my senior thesis isn't something I'm going to read unless it's in print. Babisko asked for opinions, I gave mine as a reader. Yours may differ.

We're talking about reading online - that's my opinion.

I like long and short chapters both as a reader and as a writer. IF the chapter is well written I can read 20 pages without a problem. . . . IF . . . it is poorly written, I can't stomach more than 1 page before I have to leave and look for something else. So long as the plot is advancing and the details support the development, I will stick with any number of pages. My problem with most really short chapters is the lack of details for my imagination to work correctly in the max enjoyment category. Leaving characters in a blank space is one thing I have seen many fan fiction writers do over the last few years. I would rather read an extra page that places them in a grounded area than founder as I do with those types of chapters.

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I personally tend to write somewhere between 1,100 words to 3,000 words per chapter. But for reading, I like a variety but if it's going to end up being a small book per chapter (say between 9,000 words and over) I tend not to read it unless it's a really good story and one that I want to read. And It has to move on, be good.

Or be a one shot. One of the two.

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I personally tend to write somewhere between 1,100 words to 3,000 words per chapter. But for reading, I like a variety but if it's going to end up being a small book per chapter (say between 9,000 words and over) I tend not to read it unless it's a really good story and one that I want to read. And It has to move on, be good.

Or be a one shot. One of the two.

Some of my chapters hit the 5000 word range, about 11 pages. The people who like to read my chapters hate it if I write 3000, or 6 and a half pages or shorter, so I get yelled at. Then again, I think it all comes down to the specific writing style. My writing appeals to people who like character driven prose. A chapter will always reflect the values of the character. That will take a few extra sentences to make realistic. An introvert will have different type of chapter feel than an extrovert point of view will reflect. Most people do not write that way, so fewer words work for them. However, if I forget to ground the character inside every word, I am in huge trouble. ROFl.

Edited by Kurahieiritr

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Prefered length depends heavily on how the chapter is written. If it's especially dialogue-heavy, or if it's over the top in description, I prefer under 4k, but if there's plenty of narrative, I'd rather see it closer to 5k.

Balance is key, of course, but that's my general rule of thumb for preferences.

Edited by bryosgirl

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As a reader, it depends on how the chapter flows. I've read very long chapters, and liked them just fine, and the same goes for short chapters. It really depends on how the chapter itself READS overall.

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The chapters for my Transformers Prime story really do average over 20k words and I get a lot of great reviews, no one has ever complained about them being too long.

I know that long stories can be intimidating but I don't think that you should dismiss a story just because its long. I think you should check it out, and if the writing is good it will keep you so engrossed that you will be wishing it were longer.

DG, I realize you must be immensely busy and its cool if you don't want to, but if you could get around to reading Transformers Prime the Truth Revealed; I would really appreciate your opinion. It's a love story between Jack and Arcee, with lots of original concepts I'm adding to the Transformers universe. There is smut but its woven into the story... mostly. :P Chapter 4 the smut is mostly for the readers but I'm trying to make sure that it doesn't detract from the story.

If you do check it out please keep in mind that I don't have a bata and so there are likely to be some spelling errors, but not many.

Edited by Aysha c.c.

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As a reader, it depends on how the chapter flows. I've read very long chapters, and liked them just fine, and the same goes for short chapters. It really depends on how the chapter itself READS overall.

Very true, DG. Some writers spend time with additional elements outside of dialog and basic actions so require more room for their writing to flow well. I tend toward longer chapters, and yet I have a strong group of followers because of my descriptions and emotional keys. Without such keys, the stories I write would be very lame reading. Style and syntax play an important role in any story chapter written. The best styles for one writer do not transfer well to another writer's style. With that being said, a short story writer does well with a few words to bring out the most of those few words actions and impacts. Longer novel writers need more room to create complex woven descriptions and very realistic characters. It really does come down tot he flow and harmonics of a story and the requirements to pull off the most powerful and enjoyable form.

Edited by Kurahieiritr

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I personally don't like posting a chapter with less than a thousand words--unless it's in response to a challenge or is one of my drabbles. I think drabbles are my biggest challenge; describing a scene so that it draws people in with such a limited amount of words is difficult for me, because I. Like. Words. All of my actual chaptered stories, I try to keep a minimum of a few thousand words. Some are longer. Some are a lot longer.

As a reader, I'm pretty much the same in preference. I love longer chapters, longer stories, the intricacies and details that can be revealed in a well-written work. Knowing this about myself makes me more aware that I need to branch out periodically, though, and so occasionally I find myself reading short stories, drabbles, and poems. Some are absolute gems--like the drabble collection A Karakura Ghost Story by black.k.kat on FF. And some writers are just worth reading, whatever the length of story or whoever it's focused around.

DG and Kurahieiritr are right: the length of a chapter should probably depend the most on the story flow, style, syntax, and how it reads--both as a standalone chapter and as part of the whole.

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DG and Kurahieiritr are right: the length of a chapter should probably depend the most on the story flow, style, syntax, and how it reads--both as a standalone chapter and as part of the whole.

I completely agree. Bite-sized chapters work extremely well in some works (especially if there are a lot of simultaneous plot threads); other works need longer chapters to really get you into a scene.

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The chapters I write tend to hover in the 2000-2500 word range, though I've had a few between 1600 and 1800 words, and a few that were over 4000. I've found that overall range is where I like the chapters I read to be, also - though I'm willing to make exceptions for exceptional prose.

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My chapters typically range 5-7k; though they have been longer and shorter.  If I’m reaching 10k, I’ll generally be looking to see if the chapter should be split.  I did experiment with one story, going deliberately shorter, around 2-3k, and overall, I liked the outcome for that story, but it’s not necessarily good for every story to be like that.

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Admittedly, it depends on the author and even the mood of the chapter. Shorter chapters that work well are usually humorous or sharply focused on an emotion like angst or pining.  Short chunks are sometimes a drive-by posting without character or plot advancement when an author wants to post something but is verbally flailing as to what. I've written shorter than a drabble when there is a total breakpoint for characters, and up to about 7k which are usually my finales. I prefer to write 1k to 4k. 

I like to read in that range as well.  I can and have spent many hours on one well written and gripping story. (I won a bet with myself as a teen and read a thousand page paperback in one twelve hour binge-) But one of the reasons for chapters is to control the pacing of the stories, balancing plot, character, and climaxes. I know I have to end the chapter when a cliffhanger appears, otherwise I’m wasting the tension and reader’s wishes to know what happens next. One of the sweetest things is to see comments from readers howling to know what comes next. If the chapter seems on the short side I may go back and add or elaborate on a scene, but my muse is usually insistent on stopping if the narrative hits a cliffhanger.

Another is to break the story into manageable chunks, as a writer and as a reader. (don’t we all tend to write what we like?)   Chapters longer than about 6k, if that is typically clear from story stats, already have a strike against them. They require longer blocks of time and I cannot count on uninterrupted time as I got older.  If I often get interrupted by RL I lose track of events and have to go backwards to refresh the story's flow.  Really long chapters above 15k are approaching novella (and I'm reluctant to even start stories like that in fandoms I follow). There are several fanfics I've loved but had ended up dropping as I could not easily reenter chapters partway through without a visual marker. (I cannot dog-ear a scrolling page like I did before reformatting electronic books) I kept looking a while back when I started revising an original for professional publication and found answers ranging somewhere below 10k but no upper limit. One of the better suggestions was a chapter that most readers can finish in about fifteen minutes. Guessing that is another story, but 5k in 15 min → 333 words/minute as words per page is a slippery value...

The time for editing long chapters or even stories is not a linear relationship either but a steep curve. I can easily edit a 1k flash in a day. A 2k is a day also. A 5k can run a week, even outside any time for a beta. A 60k novel? The sheer bulk is not just intimidating, but tracking all the bits of theme, character, plot and finicky details can drive you mad. I still have not come up with a way to organize it for my novels.

I have found as my life got busier, I enjoy strong shorter pieces more, as a reader and as inspiration. One of my favorite writers right now can write an evocative, insightful story that rips your heart out in under a thousand words, many times a week. (Sorry to ramble on in a topic about length but answering tl:dr would not explain why that applies to fiction as well)

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2 hours ago, Anesor said:

I like to read in that range as well.  I can and have spent many hours on one well written and gripping story. (I won a bet with myself as a teen and read a thousand page paperback in one twelve hour binge-) But one of the reasons for chapters is to control the pacing of the stories, balancing plot, character, and climaxes. I know I have to end the chapter when a cliffhanger appears, otherwise I’m wasting the tension and reader’s wishes to know what happens next. One of the sweetest things is to see comments from readers howling to know what comes next. If the chapter seems on the short side I may go back and add or elaborate on a scene, but my muse is usually insistent on stopping if the narrative hits a cliffhanger.

If I’m writing chaptered based, then yeah, I’m all for the cliffhanger, but if I’m doing it as an episodic serial, essentially as a series of oneshots around the same set of characters, I tend to wrap up at the end of the episode (though I still like to toss in that cliffhanger when I can :) ) 

2 hours ago, Anesor said:

Another is to break the story into manageable chunks, as a writer and as a reader. (don’t we all tend to write what we like?)   Chapters longer than about 6k, if that is typically clear from story stats, already have a strike against them. They require longer blocks of time and I cannot count on uninterrupted time as I got older.  If I often get interrupted by RL I lose track of events and have to go backwards to refresh the story's flow.  Really long chapters above 15k are approaching novella (and I'm reluctant to even start stories like that in fandoms I follow). There are several fanfics I've loved but had ended up dropping as I could not easily reenter chapters partway through without a visual marker. (I cannot dog-ear a scrolling page like I did before reformatting electronic books) I kept looking a while back when I started revising an original for professional publication and found answers ranging somewhere below 10k but no upper limit. One of the better suggestions was a chapter that most readers can finish in about fifteen minutes. Guessing that is another story, but 5k in 15 min → 333 words/minute as words per page is a slippery value...

This is one reason I try to push for shorter chapters, the “chunking” it up forthe reader.  If I hit 10k, I look to split, but that’s my rule of thumb.  Of course, it’s not a hard rule, if there’s reason for it to go a bit higher, I’ll let it, but it will most definitely be split if it goes much higher (I’ll find a spot to break it).

2 hours ago, Anesor said:

The time for editing long chapters or even stories is not a linear relationship either but a steep curve. I can easily edit a 1k flash in a day. A 2k is a day also. A 5k can run a week, even outside any time for a beta. A 60k novel? The sheer bulk is not just intimidating, but tracking all the bits of theme, character, plot and finicky details can drive you mad. I still have not come up with a way to organize it for my novels.

Have I mentioned my story database for details?   The other reason for shorter chapters is the author side.  For the Repair Guy I experimented with shorter chapters (~2k), and I was pumping out chapters every day or two, which was most definitely fun.  With Jefferey and it’s 7kword (average) episodes, it’s more like once every two weeks for new material.

Another thing is that if I find that it takes 10kwords “just to get started” on an episode/chapter, it likely means I’m trying to do too much with the chapter/episode, so it’s better to break it up and focus on the different elements one at a time.  It’s better for the readers, better for me.

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I’ve been hmm-hawing about chapter lengths for what feels like every moment of my 32 years on this planet. When I was a beginner, I thought longer was better. I also thought long-winded was better. I was not very good at this shit. Then I decided shorter was better. Little bitsized 3kperchappie pieces packed with action and maybe smut. That was better. I do best with fast-paced stuff, I think. Then I thought even that wasn’t bite sized enough because I assumed all readers had gnat-sized attention spans like me. So I cut my average chapter down by 500ish words. It still worked with my style. My latest finished product was all of 50k, with 20ish chapters, and I think it turned out pretty good. 

But lately I’ve been thinking short isn’t always best, even in this post-vine internet age. Like, I feel like if people are taking the time to read my story, maybe they actually wouldn’t mind a little more story in each bite. It’ll be harder on my betas, sure. I find betas tend to get less excited when chapters get more than 2.5k and backlogs start to happen. But I’ve been trying to decide on a larger number anyway. Like maybe 3.5 to 4k. It’s still short by the standards of some writers on here, but I don’t think longer than that would work with my particular style. Or maybe it would. 

Obviously, I’m still not sure what to do.

Edited by CloverReef

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I like the 3.5 to 4k length. It’s long enough to get in some action, and not too long to make readers wonder if they’re going to have time to finish.

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Why do I keep envisioning the topic title to be “How long do you prefer c***s?”

In the end, it just comes down to preference, I think.  Shorter for a faster pace, longer to get more into it, and sometimes, the material calls out the length when a scene makes you feel the chapter’s “just right.”  For Jefferey, this means ep. 15 will be just over 1kwords, because though I wanted it longer, the scene was such that any longer would detract from the point of the episode.  I could go back, embellish that scene, but it’d be overdoing it.

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On 7/8/2018 at 1:06 AM, Desiderius Price said:

Why do I keep envisioning the topic title to be “How long do you prefer c***s?”

In the end, it just comes down to preference, I think.  Shorter for a faster pace, longer to get more into it, and sometimes, the material calls out the length when a scene makes you feel the chapter’s “just right.”  For Jefferey, this means ep. 15 will be just over 1kwords, because though I wanted it longer, the scene was such that any longer would detract from the point of the episode.  I could go back, embellish that scene, but it’d be overdoing it.

Following the flow of the scenes is always fun when it uncomplicates things for you. I kinda hate it and kinda love it when the scenes force me out of my wordcount limits. Hate it because of some minor obsessive tendencies, and love it because it’s always nice when things flow at their most natural. It’s not too common that the scenes force a shorter or longer wordcount, though. Most of the time my control-freakiness gets nicely sated. 

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