Writing Chapter Stories? How many and how long?


Ginevra
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I often write stories that are long enough to require being broken down into chapters and I have been trying to make up my mind on several points. think.gif

1. How many chapters should you have? Do stories with many chapters turn readers off before they even give you a shot? Or do they feel shortchanged when it turns out that the chapters are shorter than they expected?

2. What is a reasonable length for a chapter? Do you plan a chapter to be a certain length in terms of words or pages? Or do you plan them to cover certain events or topics? Or perhaps when you change POV's or settings? Or do you use some other way to determine length?

3. As online readers, do you personally have a preference for how long chapters should be? Is your preference as a reader different from your preference as a writer?

I have tried several different approaches and I'm finding myself tempted to go back and restructure the chapters on one or two of my stories. Before I start fiddling with things, I'd like to hear someone else's opinions.

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you know, i've never given any real thought to this subject because i've always just known where to stop. both on chapters and on stories. i think that length is something you'll have to play with until you find what works best for you.

there will always be people who are looking for just a short read. they mostly look for one shots. anyone who sits down to read any thing other than a one shot knows what they're in for. i don't think the readers here are going to be turned off by a multi-chaptered fic unless it isn't what they're looking for. that's one of the reasons story codes are your friend. and there's really no set length for a story. i've seen some fics stretch on into well over 50+ chapters. its all dependent upon what kind of plot you have and how many ideas your bunnies can throw at you.

and length is, again, an issue that varies from one reader to the next. i generally prefer to read long chapters. however, if the chapter is chock full of vital information, be it through thoughts, action or speech, i can overlook the length of the chapter. what's important, ultimately, is that you are happy with what you've written. regardless of what your readers do or don't think about your stories..... you've written them for you. and if you aren't happy, change them.

i've got a tendency to battle my own chapters. length is..... something of an issue for me. i don't know how much i write in terms of word count or pages. i go by how big the file is. before i add my disclaimers, A/N's and other assorted tidbits. my longest chapter (for a multi-chaptered fic) was over 80k. for a one shot, it was 124k. which, i found out later, was over 22,252 words! that's a lot of damn words. i've been told i write long, juicy, packed chapters. which is something i strive for, no matter the length.

so, in the end.... its all a matter of personal choice. what ever works best for you is what you should follow. trying to please someone else will only make you want to quit writing.

after all, we started writing for ourselves, didn't we?

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If no scroll bar shows up on the side, then the chapter is too short. I'm not talking about prologues or epilogues, but full chapters. I'm not sure what would constitute "long". I'm the last person you should ask on what's considered "too long".

I think a good length for a chapter is around 3-10 full scrolls on the bar. If the scroll block is small and you have to scroll down around 20 times, maybe the chapter's too long.

I don't think I've ever gone by number of pages. I always use the web layout when typing a chapter. When I check it, it looks the same as it would on the site. I use the page layout for reports which I'd have to print out.

What constitutes a proper chapter? I think it honestly depends on the content of the chapter. If all the content in the chapter is relevant to one situation (be it one character's POV, one specific event, one reaction, etc.), then it's a proper chapter. It also helps if the beginning and end are "tidy", as in it doesn't come off as awkward and ill-fitting.

A good chapter number cut-off depends on the individual reader. I'd say 20-30 chapters is a good rule-of-thumb for maximum lengths. If you can effectively break something beyond 40 chapters into two parts, I'd recommend it.

I'm in the middle of reading this one fic that's over 80 chapters long and is still in-progress. It's a great fic, but it's way too long for my tastes. I have an amazing attention span when it comes to reading (I'm an English major - I need it), but there are limits. I can't even say anything, because as far as I can see there's no way to effectively break it down into a series because there's no long lulls between events, no POV-specific chapters, no major changes in theme.

In the end, you need to go with whatever suits you best. All I ask is that you don't post re-structured chapters so often that your story gets bumped to the top constantly for several days straight. That's just rude and annoying, and it's happened on this site before.

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The few pieces I've written are all for practice anyway. As much as I love fan fiction, it's not something I dedicate my life to, so I'll never end up writing anything in the 20 - 30 chapter range that EK mentions.

When I read fics I also don't want them to be an eternity long in length. I've only read one fic that was hovering in the 30 chapter area, but the chapters were about 2 scrolls a piece, and the fic had 90+ raving reviews going for it, so I thought I'd give it a shot. My own pieces hover around 6 chapters, but I write everything in Word and my page range varies from 40 - 60 pages for the entire fic (Arial, size 10).

Usually I break the chapters down by scenarios based on changes in location or a complete shift in the story's direction. I rarely think "Uh-oh, I should only make this X amount of pages because people might not read it." I would concentrate on writing a good fic that will lure the readers in and hold their attention. If you can do that then length can often be irrelevant in a lot of cases. As far as the inital turn-off of it being too long, that's where your skills in summary writing need to kick in and entice them. smile.gif

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Thanks for taking the time to think about my topic.

I'm finding that my stories are getting longer and longer, so the chapter question is becoming more and more important.

I compose in Microsoft Word and prefer to keep the entire story as a single file, no matter how long or how many chapters. For me that makes life simple. Word lets me use spelling and grammar checking (Word hates dialogue tongue.gif ). It also lets me do quick checks on my word counts, either for the whole story or for whatever portion I've selected. When I'm satisfied with things, I simply cut and paste each chapter into the text box on AFF. I am almost completely ignorant of HTML coding, so I leave that alone.

I've used a couple of different methods to divide chapters. For some pieces, it's pretty logical. The story essentially divides itself. But I do feel anything less than about 1,500 words is probably too short to be a separate chapter.

I do like to have in mind a word count goal for each chapter. For something relatively short, that might be 1,500 or 2,000 words. About as much as I can read online in 10 minutes, assuming the rug rats give me that much peace. For something medium length I'm leaning towards around 3,000 words per chapter in a 38-40k word piece. For my monster piece of about 147k words, I settled on 3,500 to 4,000 words, though the first chapter is longer since it started as a oneshot. It wound up being a total of 38 chapters. I still can't believe I wrote what was essentially an entire novel in only two and a half months! blink.gif (Just checked, file was created on 6/5/07 and last modified on 8/20/07)

For each chapter, I usually have a couple of things I wish to accomplish in the story. I think having a word count goal helps me plan the chapter so that it has a beginning, middle and end, rather than just being where I stopped writing. When I get within 500 words of my goal, it's time to wrap things up. If I'm still 1,000 words away, then I probably have room to move the story along a little further.

The story I'm most considering restructuring runs about 38,000 words. I wrote it in 2,000 word chapters which I now consider a bit too short.

I may one day wish to write professionally, so I am quite serious about trying to develop my skills I think I have already improved greatly since posting my first piece on AFF, at least in my opinion -- I'm always trying to challenge myself, even on the fluffiest pieces. Part of that for me is setting goals.

As a reader, I like chapters that take me around 10-15 minutes to read. I do read fast--so I hope my chapters don't take the average reader much longer 30 minutes at the most. I figure that's a reasonable amount of time for most people to sit still and read at the computer.

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I haven't given much thought into this myself, since I mostly write one-shots, it usually depends on how long I can make the chapter according to my ideas.

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I think a good length for a chapter is around 3-10 full scrolls on the bar. If the scroll block is small and you have to scroll down around 20 times, maybe the chapter's too long.

This I'm going to disagree with. A chapter should be just as long as the author needs it to be, depending on what the author needs it to do. 3-10 scrolls, (I'm using the page down key to measure instead, since a wheel mouse is varaint depending on force applied) equals about 3-10 pages, based of what I've posted using Word and Processor as programs. For what I write that is fine, as I'm not trying to provide any sort of complexity to my stories, but I've had chapters go for as many as twenty two pages and as little as two.

Part of that is a requirement of formatting. If an author is copy pasting such as I am then it makes more sense for them to place a gap between each line of dialogu, simply so that the reader knows someone else is speaking, or that something has happened in between lines. The same goes with the spacing between paragraphs. So what might have started as a simple half page of dialogue typed can become a page, page and a half posted material. similiarly, shorter chapters, where not as much is given but much more is left to the reader's imagination, can be more beneficial for foreshadowing than simply giving the reader every last detail of the wiocked witch's plan.

The number of chapters is bound to a similiar code. Tell the story first, worry about the length later. People who want to read it will, people who don't won't. Trying to woo those who would rather not read your stories is more likely to lose those who are reading your work. Just like the story itself, the chapters should be coherent and straightforward. Have them stick to one thing at a time. This doesn't mean you can't have three forces at work at once, but give the reader a chance to visit each one before moving on. If force A is accomplishing five points a chapter, force B is only doing three, and force C hasn't gotten started, but all are interconnected, then you're reader is going to have some serious problems trying to mentally timeline everything. Resolution is the key there.

I compose in Microsoft Word and prefer to keep the entire story as a single file, no matter how long or how many chapters. For me that makes life simple. Word lets me use spelling and grammar checking (Word hates dialogue  ). It also lets me do quick checks on my word counts, either for the whole story or for whatever portion I've selected. When I'm satisfied with things, I simply cut and paste each chapter into the text box on AFF. I am almost completely ignorant of HTML coding, so I leave that alone.

Personally, I find it easier to break chapters down into individual documents. Not only does it make it easier to remember where I started for copying purposes, it makes looking up continuity easier as well. People aren't very fond of an author contradicting themselves simply because we forgot where we put something.

I've used a couple of different methods to divide chapters. For some pieces, it's pretty logical. The story essentially divides itself. But I do feel anything less than about 1,500 words is probably too short to be a separate chapter.

I do like to have in mind a word count goal for each chapter. For something relatively short, that might be 1,500 or 2,000 words. About as much as I can read online in 10 minutes, assuming the rug rats give me that much peace. For something medium length I'm leaning towards around 3,000 words per chapter in a 38-40k word piece. For my monster piece of about 147k words, I settled on 3,500 to 4,000 words, though the first chapter is longer since it started as a oneshot. It wound up being a total of 38 chapters. I still can't believe I wrote what was essentially an entire novel in only two and a half months!  (Just checked, file was created on 6/5/07 and last modified on 8/20/07)

For each chapter, I usually have a couple of things I wish to accomplish in the story. I think having a word count goal helps me plan the chapter so that it has a beginning, middle and end, rather than just being where I stopped writing. When I get within 500 words of my goal, it's time to wrap things up. If I'm still 1,000 words away, then I probably have room to move the story along a little further.

The story I'm most considering restructuring runs about 38,000 words. I wrote it in 2,000 word chapters which I now consider a bit too short.

Again, personally I'm not too fond of restricting a chapter's length based on the number of words, especially since Microsoft determines a word as anything with a space before and after, so a simple * counts. However, as with all things, remember to write to a style that bests suits you.

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My chapters range from 2,000 words to sometimes over 8,000! I just keep going until it seems like a good place to stop. Since I tend to make up a story as I go along, I never can tell how many chapters I will end up with. I do like to end it on an even number though. My very fist fic was 35 chapters long but only 60,000 some words long. The moster one I just recently finished this summer was over 200,000 words long but only 28 chapters in length.

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You know, I generally don't actually plan how many chapters a story is going to have. Setting a ball park length for my chapter kind of gives me a chance to stop and take stock of the story. If I'm posting while writing, then it represents how much work I'm going to do before giving the readers their update.

I'm not totally anal about chapter length. whip.gif I'll go under a little if there's lots of dialogue or if breaking the action right there would be awkward. I'm much more likely to go longer, though if it's gone really long, it usually means I've gotten too wordy somewhere and it's time to do a little pruning.

And personally, I like the symmetry of breaking the story up into chapters of about the same length. Maybe that's a little odd. freak.gif

I do thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

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Well two of my favourite stories are positivly gargantuan. One is 97 chapters split into to 2 48ish chapters. And another is well over 220 chapters and only has a second part because the first part exceeded the file limit for the archive.

A real chapter for a novel like story should be around the size of this page as it is from this post, the current chapter i'm writing for my story is over 4,000 words now. You need to have a plan for the current chapter so you know what you want to put into that chapter once you have run out of details you wanted in that chapter end it.

Chapters that have under 2000 words are pretty well on the short side and need to be 2000 - 4000 words if they are not in the one-shot format.

Though if you are going to be publishing the whole story and not posting parts of it at a time like most people do. 1000+ words is a good size for chapters just as long as the chapter is long enough to fill the page. (Some novelists do have chapters that are only 3-4 pages long in that paperback size)

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Greetings from the Noob,

Like DotD, my XSFGC series has chapters going from 2K to 8K with a lot of the longer chapters broken into pieces (mainly to have a stopping section to post here).

Personally, I like to read the longer chapters of a longer story (my favorite online pron is Six Times A Day), in this aspect I guess you could say I am not a fan of one shot stories unless it is a straight wank story. As been said, the major downfall of the longer stories is that tend to lose focus.

I am running into a similar issue as Ginerva in that with XSFGC, I started writing that story because of all of the X-Men pron stories I have read online (outside of this site, someone pointed out this site to me when I had 9 chapters written and was looking to find a place to post it), I thought I could do something that I agreed with more. Additionally, I wanted to make some of the readers say, "WTF" when I threw out a curveball or three; now I am not sure how much longer I should take the story because when I planned out the story I wanted to write, I never once came up with an ending. Now, I could simply stop writing the story (but I abhor it when I find stories that aren't complete online) or I could leave it open ended (just like comic books can be considered never ending).

As a tangent, the other issue I am having is deciding how much effort should be put on the the story and how much for sex but from other threads I have read here, that seems to be a common issue.

Thanks for the time,

Albert - Pariahsolo - eastwoodaen

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  • 2 months later...

I write a few chaptered stories, not many but I do.

And the way I find the need to skip to the next chapter is if I have a cliff hanger showing up, that's usually when I make a new chapter.

Some of my stories don't have cliff hangers for my chapters to end, I just figure a time to bring about the next chapter.

Mine usually are about three to five pages but it depends on how deep I am writing on that story chapter.

Beth

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, that's a hard one to answer. I think I only have like two "one shots" most of mine are always chapter stories and many are down right NOVELS with 40+ chapters. (and those chapters can be 10,000-40,000 words each!) even some of my 'shorter' stuff is at least 7 chapters.

That being said, the LENGTH of the chapters varies, I have had some chapters that were only about 6 paragraphs, (2000 words) and others that ran nearly 30,000 words! To me, chapter progression (start and finish) takes place when the story ITSELF demands a chapter change. (New thing going on, switching perspective to another person/party/individual or location) or simply because in the story it seems an appropriate and natural "break". (Hard to describe)

I'm sure this didn't help you out to much, sorry for that. I think that with experience and practice of your craft comes the ability to know where the 'breaks' (new chapters) in your stories will occur. Also read some of your favorite published authors (not fanfic) and see how and why they end their chapters where they do. The transistions they put in there.

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For my gundam wing fics, it was gundam wing hentai with 47 chapters and its growing as we speak! Of course, this is an anthology, so each chapter is like a mini story. I very seldom write one chapter stories. Once a plot gets in my head, it just won't stop! However, the number of chapters is also seldom an indicator of how long the fic is. GWH's chapters are usually 3-5 pages long. Solstice on the other hand is not even two full chapters yet and is at 200 pages.

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I rarely plan out the exact number of chapters a story will need. Once I get a ballpark estimation in my head, I either try to figure out how a story will end, or I don’t, and rush in.

As far as chapter length goes…for long fiction I have a rule of thumb (not an iron law) I use that I picked up from some place else, I can’t remember where. That rule is: At least one important plot point per chapter. What I mean by that is, try to have the story take a significant step forward with every chapter, and if a subplot or two gets advanced along the way, so much the better.

Don’t worry about chapter lengths being consistent throughout a fic, readers won’t care for the most part about uneven lengths as long as the chapters are effective. Unless the size difference is extreme (like 200 words for one, 8000 for the next). I find a well developed chapter is difficult to do in under 1000-2000 words, but there are always exceptions.

As far as ending chapters, try to alternate cliff-hanger endings (if you like to write them) with uhh…non-cliff-hanging endings. Even if a chapter ending is not a cliffhanger, try to end on a strong thought or image or scene, and don’t linger. Leave the aftermath for a later chapter.

For example, if you want a chapter to end with a college student getting fed up and shouting at his pushy professor, try ending it with the last sentence describing the door slamming shut behind the student as he storms out. Don’t even show the professor’s reaction just yet, make the reader got to the next chapter to find out.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter length is an odd phenomenon with me.  My chapters tend to be on the long side, but for some odd reason, they almost always end up around the same length.  I'll be sitting in my chair typing away, come to a sentence and be like "Well, that's the end of that one!".  After I'm done editing and I hit the word count button, it almost always comes out to be in the 10-11k range.   

I get all the plotwork into it that I intended and also the dialogue I wanted to

 occur, I just always seem to spontaneously end my chapters at the 10k mark. 

... I guess my mind isn't as chaotic as I thought it was XD

Edited by Wendera
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I often write stories that are long enough to require being broken down into chapters and I have been trying to make up my mind on several points. think.gif

1. How many chapters should you have? Do stories with many chapters turn readers off before they even give you a shot? Or do they feel shortchanged when it turns out that the chapters are shorter than they expected?

When it comes to chapters, I think it all depends on the writer's themselves on how many they want in their story/book/novel. And really, it depends on the readers themselves when it comes to length of a chapter.

2. What is a reasonable length for a chapter? Do you plan a chapter to be a certain length in terms of words or pages? Or do you plan them to cover certain events or topics? Or perhaps when you change POV's or settings? Or do you use some other way to determine length?

A reasonable length for a chapter depends on what your writing. I don't concentrate on how long the chapters will be, but on what I put in it and how I have it written, as you have mentioned, have them cover certain events or topics. Though when I end a chapter, I end it in a way that would want the reader to want more, a clifhanger. So that they will keep coming back to read my story to know more about what will happen. I like to have my readers on edge and not know what's going on in the story fully until it's complete. I like to keep them guessing as I throw in a few plot twists here and there. >D heh heh heh

3. As online readers, do you personally have a preference for how long chapters should be? Is your preference as a reader different from your preference as a writer?

I have tried several different approaches and I'm finding myself tempted to go back and restructure the chapters on one or two of my stories. Before I start fiddling with things, I'd like to hear someone else's opinions.

As an online reader or as just a reader of any book published, I don't care how long a chapter is, there's eventually got to be a pause in the story for a break (like a commercial break from your favorite tv series ^^). And also, if the chapter is interesting or exciting enough, it doesn't matter if there is fifty pages in a chapter, it's just that not everyone has the time to sit there and read for so long. My preference as a reader is no different from my preference as a writer.

I hope my answer helps you out with your story. Good luck! ^__^

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Actually, for the time being, I've decided to leave off on restructuring older stories.

I have settled on a general chapter length for most of my stories. For me, that is generally around 3500 words, give or take about five hundred words. I've settled on this for a couple of reasons: First, I do tend to write in chunks this size without meaning to, for some reason. Second, I find that this length works for pretty much any venue I decide to use for my posting, including Live Journal.

It's long enough to do about three good scenes and to make some real plot progress. Much shorter, and I feel I'm rushing. Much longer and either I feel I've gotten too wordy, or I've gone off on a tangent. If it's too long, and I may have trouble posting it in all the places I use for my stories, especially Live Journal.

I would prefer to run longer rather than shorter if there is a choice. I only grip over it if I really have to worry about the chapter being too big to post as a unit. I hate having to divide up a chapter I've just written because it is too long to post somewhere. It took me a while to realize I could get away with larger posts if I saved my stories as Rich Text Files instead of regular MS Word files. Silly me -- I'm learning this stuff as I go along.

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Actually, for the time being, I've decided to leave off on restructuring older stories.

I have settled on a general chapter length for most of my stories. For me, that is generally around 3500 words, give or take about five hundred words. I've settled on this for a couple of reasons: First, I do tend to write in chunks this size without meaning to, for some reason. Second, I find that this length works for pretty much any venue I decide to use for my posting, including Live Journal.

It's long enough to do about three good scenes and to make some real plot progress. Much shorter, and I feel I'm rushing. Much longer and either I feel I've gotten too wordy, or I've gone off on a tangent. If it's too long, and I may have trouble posting it in all the places I use for my stories, especially Live Journal.

I would prefer to run longer rather than shorter if there is a choice. I only grip over it if I really have to worry about the chapter being too big to post as a unit. I hate having to divide up a chapter I've just written because it is too long to post somewhere. It took me a while to realize I could get away with larger posts if I saved my stories as Rich Text Files instead of regular MS Word files. Silly me -- I'm learning this stuff as I go along.

Well, that's one way to do it. ^^ Glad you found a way to come to terms on your writing and how you have it set up. I agree with you on it being too short that it would seem rushed. As long as your happy with how you write it out it sounds good to me on what you have decided. Again, good luck with your story. ^_^
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For my novel I try to get all my chapters over 3,000 words but lately they've all seemed to stretch beyond 4,000. Heres the question I'd like to ask, is it too much of a problem having my previous chapter at 5,750 words but the next only 3,300? It was initially going to be a single chapter, but I think anything over 6,000 words is just too long to read in one sitting. I have over 64,000 words and my novel isn't even half done yet.

However for my other two long stories the chapters only tend to be 1,500 - 2,500 words. I think it depends on what your writing about that determines the chapter length, if theres no sub-plots or other characters to follow, I find that the chapters average around 2,000 words.

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For my novel I try to get all my chapters over 3,000 words but lately they've all seemed to stretch beyond 4,000. Heres the question I'd like to ask, is it too much of a problem having my previous chapter at 5,750 words but the next only 3,300? It was initially going to be a single chapter, but I think anything over 6,000 words is just too long to read in one sitting. I have over 64,000 words and my novel isn't even half done yet.
I don't think it's a problem that your previous chapter is 5,750 words and the next being a lot less. I have read published books where some chapters are like that, it all depends on what you want to put into a chapter. It's ok to have a long novel, or it wouldn't be called a novel now would it? XP
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  • 2 weeks later...

When I'm writing fanfics, I like for chapters to be about 5 or 6 A4 pages long. Or longer. Of course they're double-spaced and so on.

But when I was writing an Original Fiction, the chapter length varies a lot more. Varies from 3 or 4 pages to 12 pages.

The length of a chapter is really how long it takes you to get to the climax.

And number of chapters varies too. I've written one-shots, but I've written multi-chapter fics, and I've written sequels. Most of my multi-chapters range at about 20 to 30 chapters. I've got a set of five in a series.

My latest multi-chapter is nothing special, it's basically about hammering on in the angst. It's just that there's so many ways to have angst. So there's so many chapters.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...
Guest Monsterking

i prefer ten minnum well writen chapters and as for an maxinum well as long as the writer eventually finishes it he or she has the right to continue wrighting it. unless of course its an delibertly endless story in which case unless its an bunch of one shots i wont read it.

Sorry if i sound like and jack ass but thats how i feel peace out brothers and sister of adult-fanfiction.org and may the furs be with you "WOOOOOO!!"

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