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Ideal Chapter Length


buildercub

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Aspiring Author here guys, I need a little advice.

 

Lately I've found myself writing most hours of the day, redoing the story I started years ago into something that's actually workable, and I'm pretty damn proud of myself so far (considering I haven't been able to write a word in near enough three years). The problem is, it's suddenly become insanely long. The first natural break point - the first act, if you like - is near enough ten thousand words in. My instinct is that ten thousand words is rather too long for an individual chapter to be posted here; most chapters I've seen are three or four thousand maximum.

 

But I feel like if I try and chop it up into more "manageable" segments rather than leave it as one natural chunk, it might lose something...

 

What do you more accomplished writers (and readers) think? Is there a limit on how long my chapters should be?

 

P.S. I think this is the right place to put this topic... feel free to tut and shake your head if it isn't. :)

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Aspiring Author here guys, I need a little advice.

 

Lately I've found myself writing most hours of the day, redoing the story I started years ago into something that's actually workable, and I'm pretty damn proud of myself so far (considering I haven't been able to write a word in near enough three years). The problem is, it's suddenly become insanely long. The first natural break point - the first act, if you like - is near enough ten thousand words in. My instinct is that ten thousand words is rather too long for an individual chapter to be posted here; most chapters I've seen are three or four thousand maximum.

 

But I feel like if I try and chop it up into more "manageable" segments rather than leave it as one natural chunk, it might lose something...

 

What do you more accomplished writers (and readers) think? Is there a limit on how long my chapters should be?

 

P.S. I think this is the right place to put this topic... feel free to tut and shake your head if it isn't. :)

 

No such thing as ideal length in my opinion. You write as much or as little as you think you need to tell your story. That being said:

 

1. I try to keep my chapters below 5k words. I find when I'm reading anything much longer gets tedious.

 

2. Use an editor and/or beta reader to help you. I've been blessed with a couple of great ones and their help is invaluable. In my long serial story, the editor often makes (suggests actually) trim down the excess florid language. Simplify is a word he keeps using. I've almost entirely removed the words that, very, and just from my writing. The two of them have shown me they add little to the tale.

 

3. Write a few chapters and then return to the first one. In light of subsequent events, a new break point may become noticeable.

 

4. I would NEVER suggest you use cliffhangers. ;) Readers will call you devious, a bloody author and other such names. I've been accused of stopping a chapter in the middle of the action before, so I know. I wouldn't consider my endings to be cliffies but...

 

Good luck, buddy!

Edited by Carlos Hazday
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No such thing as ideal length in my opinion. You write as much or as little as you think you need to tell your story. That being said:

 

1. I try to keep my chapters below 5k words. I find when I'm reading anything much longer gets tedious.

 

2. Use an editor and/or beta reader to help you. I've been blessed with a couple of great ones and their help is invaluable. In my long serial story, the editor often makes (suggests actually) trim down the excess florid language. Simplify is a word he keeps using. I've almost entirely removed the words that, very, and just from my writing. The two of them have shown me they add little to the tale.

 

3. Write a few chapters and then return to the first one. In light of subsequent events, a new break point may become noticeable.

 

4. I would NEVER suggest you use cliffhangers. Readers will call you devious, a bloody author and other such names. I've been accused of stopping a chapter in the middle of the action before, so I know. I wouldn't consider my endings to be cliffies but...

 

Good luck, buddy!

Listen to Carlos (and read his stories) readers don't like cliffhangers  :no: I'm still not over what he did at the end of his story Summer  <_<

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Listen to Carlos (and read his stories) readers don't like cliffhangers  :no: I'm still not over what he did at the end of his story Summer  <_<

 

Funny thing is readers seem to provide more feedback when you stop a chapter before you reach a natural breaking point. After I wrote my reply here I went back and looked at the number of reviews each chapter of Summer received.

 

The highest ones were

 

chapter 1 - at the end we're left wondering who walked into the townhouse

chapter 10 - at the end we're left wondering what happens between the biker and CJ

chapter 21 - at the end we're left wondering. :rofl:

 

Just wait, I'm going to end a chapter where CJ meets a cop with a big hairy chest and... Oh never mind, that was Officer Espinosa and I already told his story.

 

Hope you get some more feedback, mate! Forgive the banter.

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No such thing as ideal length in my opinion. You write as much or as little as you think you need to tell your story. That being said:

 

1. I try to keep my chapters below 5k words. I find when I'm reading anything much longer gets tedious.

 

2. Use an editor and/or beta reader to help you. I've been blessed with a couple of great ones and their help is invaluable. In my long serial story, the editor often makes (suggests actually) trim down the excess florid language. Simplify is a word he keeps using. I've almost entirely removed the words that, very, and just from my writing. The two of them have shown me they add little to the tale.

 

3. Write a few chapters and then return to the first one. In light of subsequent events, a new break point may become noticeable.

 

4. I would NEVER suggest you use cliffhangers. Readers will call you devious, a bloody author and other such names. I've been accused of stopping a chapter in the middle of the action before, so I know. I wouldn't consider my endings to be cliffies but...

 

Good luck, buddy!

 

Thanks for the tips, mate. :) Going through what I've got already I actually found a perfect point to cut the chapter in half without rewriting any of it. So I'm happy again! I may see about getting myself one of these beta readers too, an objective viewpoint always helps...

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Listen to Carlos (and read his stories) readers don't like cliffhangers  :no: I'm still not over what he did at the end of his story Summer  <_<

 

Will do... I have a lot to catch up on. :)

 

Funny thing is readers seem to provide more feedback when you stop a chapter before you reach a natural breaking point. After I wrote my reply here I went back and looked at the number of reviews each chapter of Summer received.

 

The highest ones were

 

chapter 1 - at the end we're left wondering who walked into the townhouse

chapter 10 - at the end we're left wondering what happens between the biker and CJ

chapter 21 - at the end we're left wondering. :rofl:

 

Just wait, I'm going to end a chapter where CJ meets a cop with a big hairy chest and... Oh never mind, that was Officer Espinosa and I already told his story.

 

Hope you get some more feedback, mate! Forgive the banter.

 

No worries, banter is good! :2thumbs: It's all part of the learning curve...

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Thanks for the tips, mate. :) Going through what I've got already I actually found a perfect point to cut the chapter in half without rewriting any of it. So I'm happy again! I may see about getting myself one of these beta readers too, an objective viewpoint always helps...

 

There's a forum where you can ask for help, just don't expect an immediate response. Editors, especially good ones, are a rare commodity in high demand. Beta readers are easier to find but there's quite a range on what they'll do for you.

 

What's the story about?

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There's a forum where you can ask for help, just don't expect an immediate response. Editors, especially good ones, are a rare commodity in high demand. Beta readers are easier to find but there's quite a range on what they'll do for you.

 

What's the story about?

 

It's a science-fiction work, going for a somewhat naturalistic approach, set in a little corner of a little universe called Star Trek... okay, it's fan fiction. It's an entirely different setting, cast of characters, mode of storytelling etc. so I'm hoping there won't be too many people rejecting it purely on that basis... I do have other, more "creative" story ideas on the back burner, but this has been fighting to get out of me for so long that I really couldn't do anything else (and more to the point, I don't want to until it's done).

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I have to agree with Carlos that there is no set "ideal" chapter length.  I've read stories that routinely post 10k word chapters and find myself not wanting the chapter to end, and read 2k chapters where I'm rolling my eyes the entire time.  It all depends on your pacing and story structure.  My chapters tend to stay in the 2-3k range, but that's just my personal style.  Getting a good editor/beta team is invaluable.  I'm going to disagree with Carlos about the use of cliffhangers.  When done well, they keep the reader interested in the story and salivating for more.  They may ask for your head on a stick, but like Carlos said, they tend to garner the most feedback.  Best of luck with your story! 

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A few tips:

 

Posting shorter chapters more frequently, say 3-5k every week, instead of a 10k every 2-4 weeks, will lead to more readers following your story because they like consistent posting and shorter gaps between updates in order to stay with the storyline. If you have a complete story, that's not as much of a concern since you're not as likely to space out posting in order to finish work, but it's still a factor.

 

I like to begin and end a chapter depending on what is happening in a particular scene, but one or the other should be an 'active' moment. There should be an arc within each chapter just as there should be an arc in a story. You should have some active event or progression of the plotline in each, or you end up with 'filler' chapters that don't interest readers. A great way to keep readers coming back is to ensure you're led to them needing to ask 'Why is this happening...?' or 'What did so and so mean when they said...'

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Personally, most of my chapters are 7-9K in length. That's what feels right to me. I've never had any feedback on the subject, though, so I don't know if readers think they're too long. However, as Valkyrie indicated, the real issue is content, not length. As long as it draws the reader in, I don't think the length is that important.

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It is very much a matter of style.

 

Some authors use scene-length chapters that range from very short to moderately long. Johnathan Maberry uses very short chapters- some are just a few paragraphs. Have a look at any of his https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Ledger_Series books.

 

I usually create multi-scene chapters which may have three to seven distinct divisions. That usually works out to between 8 to 14 printed pages in MS-word. In the Shadow of the Dragon (https://www.gayauthors.org/story/jamessavik/intheshadowofthedragon) is a good example.

 

There are no hard and fast rules. You might even experiment a bit and see what you think fits you best.

Edited by jamessavik
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I do not really believe that there is such a thing as an ideal chapter length.

 

As James mentioned, it can be a matter of style for each author. Also to me it is depend on the needs of the story an the story characters. As has been mentioned somewhere, "The characters write the story, the author simply puts it on paper."

 

So it .at least to me, only makes sense that there can be chapters of varying length in a story depending on the needs of the story and the characters.

 

It;s only my opinion.

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Thanks for your input, everyone! I think I'll look a bit more at the "ad breaks" so to speak, looking at what I have so far it shouldn't be too difficult to break the chapters down into a few smaller bites.

 

I'd like all your posts but I'm all out for the day...

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My chapters are around 4500 - 5000 words. That for me, is around 10 pages. I use a lot of dialogue in my stories, so that tends to stretch out the length in pages. For the most part, the chapters should flow. There's no point in chopping a long chapter into multiple smaller ones if you're sacrificing flow for... well more chapters to post. I attempted to make that point with someone that I read, it seemed they wrote 2-3k per chapter, but the chapters seemed to end suddenly and the next chapter begin within the same breath. It would have made more sense to combine the two. So there is no sure answer, your own writing style will likely dictate how long your chapters are, because you only know how your story and writing flows and we do not. :P

 

And, Cliffhangers are teasers.. and who doesn't like a little tease every once in awhile? :P 

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My chapters are usually between 2000 and 4000 words, depending on the story. I've tried to make them longer, but usually it just feels unnatural... I think the most important thing is that your chapter feels like a whole. 

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I have no real opinion on chapter length. Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. I do find 1000 word chapters frustrating. My chapters range from 3000 to 7500 words. I would just caution one thing. Some scenes or events have a lot more power if they are not broken up. In the end, we want our work to have the maximum impact possible on the reader, so I would use that as your measuring stick. Cliffies are fine, and can create a lot of interest, but I would never do it to tease the reader or to garner more attention. Resolution has a power all its own, and I would tend to strive for that when possible, and if that means the chapter needs to be 8000 or so words, then so be it. Mind you, this is just my opinion, but as a reader, I absolutely hate being played with. With serialized writing and posting, we take away the readers ability to 'read on' to get them through a tough spot, and I think we have a responsibility there, as writers, to keep the soul-wrenching angst to a minimum. :P ... just saying....

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My stories posted on GA so far are monolithic.  I think ~5k is about right.  But there is no such thing as "ideal" length (though too long a length is hard to read on a computer screen).  It really comes to what you believe is the proper cut-off point.  As for cliffhanger people talked about earlier, bah!  I love it.  It makes the story a page-turner.  Just make sure you do have the resolution of such ending ready.  People want to know what happens next!  If you make them hanging there... for three months, they will give up out of frustration.

Edited by Ashi
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My stories posted on GA so far are monolithic.  I think ~5k is about right.  But there is no such thing as "ideal" length (though too long a length is hard to read on a computer screen).  It really comes to what you believe is the proper cut-off point.  As for cliffhanger people talked about earlier, bah!  I love it.  It makes the story a page-turner.  Just make sure you do have the resolution of such ending ready.  People want to know what happens next!  If you make them hanging there... for three months, they will give up out of frustration.

 

How about 6 weeks, Ashi. Is that acceptable? :P

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How about 6 weeks, Ashi. Is that acceptable? :P

 

My Eight-Ball says okay, but your balls might say something else.... IF you can still find them.  :P  Just kidding....

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